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Intelligent Energy Europe is behind an array of projects aimed at equipping the next generation for the energy transition. Two years after the programme’s close, the chain of learning is still going strong.

Energy Intelligence – a legacy for sustainability

This year, hundreds of schoolchildren attended prestigious European universities to learn some important survival skills – climate protection and resource efficiency. To make these lessons more widely accessible, one host university, TU Vienna, has just created Learning for a Sustainable Future – a new download full of proven methods for helping tomorrow’s adults to create a resource-efficient Europe.

All of this is the result of the highly successful Schools at University for Climate and Energy (SAUCE) –one of the many energy-education projects set going with the help of Intelligent Energy Europe (IEE).

Growing good ideas

The European Commission (EC) launched IEE in 2003 as part of the drive to create an energy-smarter Europe by 2020. Over the course of 10 years, EUR 730 million was made available to fund projects, facilities and initiatives supporting energy efficiency and renewable energy policies. Central to this venture was the drive to improve the knowledge, engagement and awareness of the next generation, thereby equipping them with the know-how to negotiate the energy challenges ahead.

The programme identified successful ideas and helped them to grow. Projects like EURONET 50/50 were built out of simple concepts with the power to spark and sustain change. EURONET motivated children to save energy by rewarding their schools with a share of the saved energy-, water- and waste-costs resulting from their efforts. IEE-funded resources enabled the idea to spread across 58 schools and far exceed the original energy-saving goal, with participating schools cutting their energy use by an average of almost 10%.

The Travelling Snake Game (TSG) began as a local project at a small school in Flanders. Spread across 19 Member States, the game is now helping hundreds of kids to form cycling habits. Last year, the TSG effected savings of 123 tonnes of CO2!

The IEE programme closed in 2013, but projects like these are still going strong.

Giving it legs

The staggering results of initiatives like EURONET and TSG are testament to the power of harnessing the interest and enthusiasm of the next generation to drive energy transformation in Europe. For many involved in the schemes, the experience radically changes the way they think and behave in relation to energy, but the impact doesn’t end there. By making smart investments, IEE has managed to start chains of perpetual learning, creating new ideas, networks and resources that reach far beyond the parameters or time-scales of individual projects.

The initial SAUCE project, for example, ended in 2011, but it is still generating new resources made publically available through theSchülerUni and ManagEnergy Education websites.

Many of the ongoing projects use social media to spread the word as far and wide as possible. Projects such asSMERGY, use Internet Technology smartly ( useITsmartly) and Energy Bitsinvolve youth-initiated cross-media campaigns that reach beyond their project participants. Social network pages like the EURONET 50/50 fHYPERLINK "https://www.facebook.com/EURONETMAX"acebook page , ZEMEDS (Zero-Energy MEDiterranean Schools) facebook page and useITsmartly HYPERLINK "http://www.useitsmartly.com/index.php?id=17"fHYPERLINK "http://www.useitsmartly.com/index.php?id=17"acebook page act as a forum where educators and kids can see what ideas their peers are coming up with, and exchange news. The useITsmartlyYouTube channel is packed with fascinating and inspiring videos, and the project uses instagram to create an energy-awareness network that has a life of its own.

When awareness projects get going, they often generate secondary resources that can be used by other schools and other projects. Whether they are playing the game or not, primary schools can track the TSG mascot Travis the travelling snake as he winds his way across Europe to visit his dedicated energy-saving fans. Teachers can use the site to discuss European geography and culture, and in doing so, expose their class to the excitement and pride of those children who are working hard to save energy.

The EU Sustainable Travel Accreditation and Recognition for Schools (STARS) hopes to reduce CO2 emissions by 3 000 to 10 000 tonnes by encouraging pupils to switch from car to bike. Schools are provided with personalised advice and tips, and a tailored STARS activity plan to get kids cycling – but those outside the project are learning too. STARS kids are coming up with great, creative ways to encourage their peers to cycle, devising themed campaigns for Valentine’s day, Halloween and ‘Carnival’. Their activities are featured on local news and online, helping to promote sustainable travel to school.

The teen-focussed Energy Bits project resulted in a web documentary and a series of short films that now act as an inspiring resource for teachers and students. SomeIEE projects used TV to teach energy awareness to carefully researched target groups. Projects like My Friend Boo and Generation Awake created perfectly pitched educational TV series with proven entertainment-value and educational impact. These series are all still available on theMy Friend Boo YouTube channel and the Generation Awake YouTube channel, and are a great, relaxed way of introducing energy awareness into the classroom or home.

Links in the chain

Promoting resources is essential to helping educators make the most of what is available. This is why cross-over and mutual support between energy-awareness initiatives can be so valuable. In Spain, the Educar Madrid Sostenible HYPERLINK "http://www.educarmadridsostenible.es/" (Sustainability Education Madrid) website has created a STARS page dedicated to spreading STARS best practices, as well as providing the region with tips and support for switching to sustainable travel for the school run, and creating newSTARS supports such as their Spanish sustainable travel support toolkit.

Keeping up to date with energy education developments in Europe, theManagEnergy Education corner brings together excellent devices like the useITsmartly toolkit, ZEMedS school toolkit and, of course, the invaluable new SAUCE resources, as well as bringing clever online resource-efficiency-themed games such asOperation Empty Garbage Bin, serious game,Zoe Makes a Splash and Enercities to the attention of teachers and parents.

The key to the ongoing success of these projects lies in the strength, transferability and network support of their resources.EURONET 50/50 developed a free guide for teachers and educational authorities, with information on how to implement the concept. To teach kids about energy, the project incorporatesgames generated by other IEE projects, and has designed an online energy savings calculator.

Not forgotten

The EU's Horizon 2020 programme , which supports the research, demonstration and market up-take of energy-efficient technologies, has taken some IEE projects under its umbrella. EURONET 50/50 didn’t finish with its end-date, but has now returned in the form of the even larger EURONET Max 50/50. Meanwhile, the hard work of thousands of children and teachers working with IEE projects has left a wealth of resources and thriving initiatives in its wake, helping the next generation to tool-up for a sustainable future.