Brussels' Pilot City Activity: EMPOWER - Empowering Local Energy Independence through Electricity Sharing and Solar Production

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Background

The EMPOWER pilot, involving three Brussels municipalities (City of Brussels, Ixelles, and Schaerbeek), addresses barriers to implementing energy sharing projects and achieving local energy independence. Despite the publication of the electricity ordinance in April 2022*, the region has seen mixed results, with only 26 projects underway. The pilot activity will tackle structural, institutional, and socio-economic barriers by enhancing the role of municipalities in facilitating energy sharing in collaboration with civil society (Energie Commune and Brupower).

The project will address technological needs (including photovoltaic panels, digital meters and energy management systems), new governance models, and the cross-sectoral potential of energy sharing involving citizens, SMEs, and municipalities. It also emphasises the social economy, prioritising economic, social, and environmental benefits over financial profit, and aims to influence consumer behaviour to adapt to the intermittent nature of solar energy.

Key activities include setting up legal frameworks and governance models, training civil servants, ensuring inclusivity by analysing how to address vulnerable groups. The project’s outcomes will be shared widely, benefiting other municipalities in the Brussels region and potentially serving as a model for other European cities, aligning with EU directives and climate action plans.

Description of Activities

The primary objective of EMPOWER’s pilot activities is to implement and validate innovative solutions for enhancing energy efficiency and sustainability across various sectors.

One focus area involves the deployment of energy management systems to monitor and optimise energy usage, including the integration of renewable energy sources and storage solutions. Data collection and analysis will play a crucial role, with collection of real-time energy consumption data and identification of patterns for potential savings.

User engagement and training initiatives aim to educate stakeholders and end-users on sustainable practices, while technology testing and validation aims to ensure the reliability and performance of implemented solutions. Additionally, regulatory and policy analysis will help to assess the impact of existing frameworks and will provide recommendations for improvement.

Dissemination and communication activities will ensure that project outcomes and best practices are shared widely, facilitating the adoption of sustainable energy solutions on a broader scale.

Objective

To establish and demonstrate effective models for energy sharing that enhance local energy independence, promote renewable energy adoption, and ensure equitable access to clean energy for all residents, thereby contributing to the Brussels region's carbon neutrality and sustainability goals.

Are the pilot activities building upon or part of a previous and/or existing activity?

Our pilot builds upon previous initiatives like the PLAGE programme, which improved energy efficiency in administrative buildings, and the Solarclick programme, which installed solar panels on public rooftops. It leverages the experiences from the Wind Energy Brussels project and the establishment of the first energy community in Ixelles. Additionally, it incorporates lessons from aerial thermography mapping for energy renovation and benefits from collaborations with local stakeholders like Convivence, Renovas, and Habitat et Rénovation. Furthermore, the pilot aligns with regional programmes such as Renolution and Innoviris, enhancing our understanding of regulatory and technical challenges. By integrating these past and ongoing efforts, our pilot aims to advance the practical implementation of energy sharing and community renewable energy projects, ensuring comprehensive and sustainable energy solutions for the Brussels region.

Which emissions domains will the pilot activities address?

  • Consumption of electricity generated for buildings, facilities, and infrastructure

Systemic transformation – levers of change the pilot activities will exploit

  • Technology/Infrastructure  

  • Governance & Policy

  • Democracy/Participation

  • Finance & Funding

  • Learning & Capabilities 

Stakeholder types that the city would like to engage in the pilot activities 

  • Academia  

  • Public/Private Partnerships

  • Business

  • Local NGO, Associations

Transferable features of the pilot activities to a Twin City/ies 

  • Community-owned renewable energy projects: Frameworks for establishing and managing local energy communities.
  • Digital management interfaces: Tools for measuring and balancing energy production and consumption.
  • New governance models: Inclusive decision-making processes involving diverse stakeholders.
  • Photovoltaic panel installation: Guidelines for installing and optimising solar panels on public and private buildings.
  • Energy management systems: Systems supporting consumer behaviour change towards energy efficiency.
  • Regulatory frameworks: Streamlined legal processes for facilitating energy sharing activities.
  • Consumer engagement strategies: Methods for inclusive citizen participation in energy projects.
  • Socio-Economic business models: Sustainable models prioritising economic, social, and environmental benefits over profit.
  • Training programs: Capacity-building modules for civil servants and community leaders.
  • Data management and analysis: Techniques for monitoring, invoicing, and decision-making within energy communities.
  • Cross-sector collaboration: Approaches for integrating citizens, SMEs, and municipalities in energy projects.
  • Support for vulnerable groups: Dedicated solutions to include and benefit marginalised populations in energy sharing initiatives.

This answer is not exhaustive and simply an indicative one.

Enabling conditions that will support the successful replication of your pilot activities in the Twin City

  • Legal framework regarding energy communities in the twin city
  • Political support
  • Feasibility of energy sharing in terms of infrastructure

This answer is not exhaustive and simply an indicative one.

What does the city want to learn from Twin City/ies?

  • Return on experience on the launch of energy communities in which municipalities are involved, for example what form of electricity sharing was chosen, what economic model, who invested in the means of production, and, what was the role of the municipality?
  • Return on experience on how to mobilise and convince citizens, for example, what reassured them and how did they involve a diversity of people including women, disadvantaged people, and people living in social housing?
  • How to mobilise and convince elected officials and public officers?
  • How to overcome internal process barriers?
  • Return on experience or additional ideas of economic models for electricity sharing.

This answer is not exhaustive and simply an indicative one.