Joint workshop on Social & Business dimensions in Energy Efficient Districts at the Sustainable Places Conference, Savona, Italy

Location: Savona, Italy
Date: 16-18 09. 2015

The Sustainable Places Conference took place on September 16-18, 2015 at the University Campus of Savona, Italy gathering researchers and engineers around long-term environmental sustainability of ever-growing, densifying urban areas, in a resource-constrained world.  
To tackle these issues, the conference offered to question energy efficiency at building, district and city levels. Information and Communications Technology (ICT) along with other key research domains (energy, materials, methods and practices, etc.) were at the core of the conference.
A workshop on Social & Business dimensions in Energy Efficient Districts was chaired by Valeria Ferrando, IES and Silvia Capato, D’Appolonia.
Valeria Ferrando opened the workshop by reminding the audience the major topic of the session which is “how to go beyond the projects and turn project results into products?”.
She presents a series of 11 EU projects fromFP7 that all are addressing the energy efficiency (EE) challenge at the scale of District or City. Each (almost) of them has issued in the frame of its activity a corresponding business model.
All projects (except the CSA nReady4Smartcities) are focusing on providing a decision support system (DSS) dedicated to various types of actors (from Citizens to Municipality actors or Stakeholders, Escos, Grid operators, Facility Managers, etc.).
This variety is leading to different business profiles of course, but in each of the requirements, the need for integration (holistic approach, holistic systems) is clearly stated.
Beside the exchange of energy, all these platforms are relying on exchange of information (production / consumption of data/ measures/indicators/etc.) and the reference to “Open Data” is made as possible enabler towards these holistic solutions.
Among the points discussed, it is mentioned that the actors from the regulation domain are missing in the picture depicted above.
Nevertheless they may have an important federative role when interoperability issues and thus the need to adopt common solutions across sectorial silos arise.

IMG 20150917 104920   IMG 20150917 150817   IMG 20150917 165326

New for new business models (Silvia Capato, D’Appolonia)

Silvia Capato focused her presentation on the various proposals made by the projects in terms of business models, reminding that there is a radical change in the energy market and it leads to a need for a radical change in business models also.
In order to do so, the projects have applied different approaches (SWOT, PORTER’S 5 FORCES, workshops…) to analyse the market against the project results through given Use-Cases or Business Scenarios.
Then, in order to issue an implementation plan, other instruments have been used here (Bowman’s strategy clock for instance).  At the current stage, the situation is a bit heterogeneous among the projects as they are not at the same maturity level.
Again, the link between energy and information appears, Information being one of the most important means to attract the users.
Some difficulties were also listed like:

-    There is not a unique and common vocabulary that is shared among all the domains addressed by EE issues. Anyhow, exchanging among heterogeneous actors requires times & effort to come to a shared understanding.
-    The motivation (especially for the citizens) is low and difficult to maintain over the time. In a similar way, there are low incentives for business actors.
-    The regulatory constraints are strong and very heterogeneous among the EU countries.
-    The market environment is not competitive at the moment as well as the maturity / acceptance level for these new DSS solutions.
-    Technological issues hamper the good perception of such tools (the services are partially developed; there are interoperability issues, etc.).

According to the projects learning, it seems that the citizen’s profiles are heterogeneous across countries. In most of the situations, the benefits are too small to convince people to adopt new behaviour and to spend time with new tools. The continuous engagement of the citizens is something difficult to obtain. Some training seems needed to make the population aware of what an energy efficient behaviour is and to make a smart home as common as a smart phone (also in terms of data privacy).
Some of the business models have been already developed but not yet tested. The first results / feedback will be available year.

Bruno Fiès
Technologies de l'Information et Diffusion du Savoir
Information Technologies and Knowledge Dissemination Department
CSTB, 290 Route des Lucioles - BP209, 06904 Sophia Antipolis, France.