Local stakeholder engagement – ‘no silver bullet, but gold nuggets’

How to successfully bring local stakeholders together to engage in energy projects was the dominant theme at the CONCERTO conference earlier this week.  According to Declan Meally of the Sustainable Energy Authority of  Ireland  ‘It is crucial to find a local champion that pulls the project.’

Meally was speaking of his experience with the HOLISTIC project in Dundalk, Ireland. Dundalk’s social housing stock, typically two-story buildings with poorly insulated roofs and walls, offered a great opportunity for energy savings as well as a high replication potential. The energy savings were realised during the project and in collaboration with the cities of Mödling and Neuchâtel. Street lighting, awareness promotion and energy savings in student accommodations and a hotel were also part of the project.

Starting a local energy project demands engagement from energy agencies, local authorities, businesses, community groups and ESCOs.  With teams changing and people that come and go, this can mean a lot of effort, explained Meally. Declan Meally HOLISTIC

Giving the keynote speech at the CONCERTO conference DG Energy’s Marie Donnelly congratulated the CONCERTO initiatives for bringing local actors together, ‘a considerable job.’ During the conference, it was clear the delegates considered local authorities  to be natural leaders of local stakeholder engagement. In another conference session, they were described as ‘the brokers of partnerships’ and ‘conductors of the orchestra’.

It is crucial to find a local champion, one actor that pulls the project and sticks to it, Meally emphasised. ‘Without a strong mandate, certain levels of commitment will not be reached. Once you find them, you can move forward’, Meally explained, pointing at establishing an organisational structure. ‘That is at the heart of a successful energy practices’.

Besides the energy savings and creation of jobs, Meally praised the CONCERTO initiative in Dundalk for its numerous non-economic benefits and its examples of good practices. ‘The project is not a silver bullet, but gold nuggets. You pick up small pieces of solutions’. Meally strongly believes in the replication potential of the project. ‘We should move away from grants. Business should recognise the opportunities of energy savings.’ For this reason, Meally hopes that the market of energy services will develop and that energy services will become more visible. ‘They should be displayed like sweets on the shelves in a candy store.’

Visit the info page on Dundalk 2020 for more information.