Jessica van der Plas


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Jessica van der Plas, Program Officer Energy & Circular at Amsterdam Smart City, posted

Demo Day #20 : Upscaling ATELIER Buiksloterham

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To mitigate climate changes and reduce CO2 emissions, the transition of the current energy system to a more sustainable and decentralized one is needed. In Amsterdam, the Buiksloterham demonstration project from ATELIER is paving the way for this transition. Buiksloterham is a Positive Energy District (PEDs) in practise, in which a local smart energy system and P2P trading governed by a citizen’s energy cooperation is implemented. The ambition of ATELIER/Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences is to research how to upscale and replicate this PED. For the Demo Day on the 16th of May, the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences asked the Amsterdam Smart City network to discuss how we can learn from the Buiksloterham project to support replication and upscaling. Read through the most valuable outtakes from this session below.

What learnings to focus on?

Starting off, the participants pointed out that it would be most important to learn which choices have been made and why. Therefore, we need to keep track of these decisions and their outcomes. It was suggested to write down all the arguments for the choices made and create a matrix that shows what works or doesn’t work.

It would also be useful to make an impact assessment that shows how much CO2 and electricity is being saved a year. Another great source of information would be around collaboration, specifically with the network operator for example. How did the connection of the PED to the grid go and what learnings are to be gained from that collaboration wise?

Drivers for community involvement

Gathering the insights around community involvement would also be helpful. Danijela and Renée, from the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, explained how it has been difficult to get the community involved in the project. Based on the experience of the worksession participants, we concluded this is an issue in other local energy system projects as well. It would be great to investigate why this is the case and what the residents need/desire.

The participants suggest looking at the project from the (possible) resident’s point of view; Why would I want to live in a PED building? What’s in it for the residents?
There is a lot of focus on getting people on board with economic benefits, but is that actually what people want? This could also be connected to comprehensive wellbeing. What else can people benefit from by living in a PED and/or being involved in the community?

Local CO2 reduction vs national grid relief

The issue of getting people on board by promising lower energy costs brings up another question; Is this way of trading energy beneficial for the energy grid capacity? How would it work if we would all start trading energy?

A battery can be very useful for an energy community, for example. But batteries can actually put more load on the energy grid than needed and are therefore not always desirable when you look at it from the municipalities point of view. Local solutions for CO2 reduction and/or economic benefit could burden the national grid.

It is important to keep this in mind when creating the targets for a local energy system. In order to scale up the ATELIER project, it is therefore key to not only maximise economic value but also include other values. If the main focus is on creating economic benefit in order the gain the interest of the community, it is important to keep the effects on the national grid in mind.

New energy law

Finalizing the discussion, we shortly discussed the new energy law. This law says that you cannot own your own grid. Only the network operator can be the owner at the moment. This creates less flexibility and possibility since these network operators are obliged to provide a high certainty for the availability of electricity. The group suggested that the learnings from ATELIER might be helpful in influencing the change of this energy law. This would create more grid connection flexibility which would contribute to upscaling.

The discussion and collaboration around local energy systems and energy communities will be continued in the Amsterdam Smart City “Local energy systems” challenge. This article is written by Jessica van der Plas, former Programme Manager Energy & Circularity at Amsterdam Smart City.

From mid-june 2023, Noor Veenhoven joined the team as our new Programme Manager Energy & Circular. Want to know more about the local energy systems challenge? Reach out to Noor via or leave a comment below!

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Jessica van der Plas, Program Officer Energy & Circular at Amsterdam Smart City, posted

Demoday #19 - Impact Story 15%GasTerug

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We had the pleasure of diving into the impact story of 15%GasTerug during the Amsterdam Smart City Demodag on the 23rd of March. This action network has been working hard to achieve the goal of 15% gas usage reduction since the war in Ukraine broke out. They reached this goal in January this year and would now like to make their impact more visible to the public.

Therefore Laetitia Stuijt from Amsterdam Economic Board and Sylvester van der Horst from the City of Amsterdam initiated this workshop, supported by Remco Marinus from Havaz Lemz as moderator. Together with the Amsterdam Smart City network we dove into the following sub questions:

  • What kind of impact does 15% gas reduction entail?
  • How do you present this impact to the public?
  • How do you maintain and continue this impact?

To start off, Remco showed the group an example of how Diabetesfonds presented the impact of their sugar reduction campaign as a comparison and inspiration. We were shown different headlines and a campaign video. Properly inspired, the group continued the workshop by brainstorming about possible newspaper headlines on 15%GasTerug. It was interesting to see and learn how these headlines could have different scopes; focussing on the financial/economic aspect, sustainability or the social/human behaviour aspect.

A selection from the headlines:

  • “The thermostat also stays below 19 this winter!”
  • “Henk doesn’t have to shut down greenhouse due to smart energy savings!”
  • “15% less means 150% profit”
  • “Energy usage continues to decrease”

As an interesting reflection, Bas Ruis from FIXbrigade brought up how the unwanted shut off of gas at certain households might have contributed to the reduction. Remco proposed that that could also be an angle for a news article. 15%GasTerug could connect their impact story to reasons such as this one for the continuation of their work; using the “human interest” scope.

After a short discussion the group was challenged to list the different components of the accompanying press release and the necessary impact data to support this. This showed us what kind of data is necessary and available and how you transform this into a newsworthy piece. Remco mentioned that it would be ideal to have a dashboard with the impact data supporting the press release.

As the final part of the workshop we flipped our perspective and were asked to think of possible critique we could receive on the news articles. The group came up with reactions such as “What a leftish nonsense! My energy bill is 400 euro a month and there is a lot of draught in my home, but I can’t do anything about it. Thanks housing cooperation.” Following, we had to think of appropriate replies.

This final exercise really made us think about the missing pieces in the press releases and our approach. Remco showed us how by criticizing yourself you can call out the “shadow” of your work. By thinking of a possible reply on this critique you can look at what you do from another perspective and improve your work. This exercise might make you realise that the initial headlines and press releases you thought of, actually won’t work and lead you back to step 1.

Walking through the steps above is useful if you’re stuck or if you’re going into multiple directions while working on something. The approach of this workshop helped to bring focus into the impact and results of 15%GasTerug. Laetitia and Sylvester will present the outcome of this workshop to the action network group. Together with Green Business Club, MRA, Duurzaamheidsraad and Platform 02025 – the other parties taking part in the action network – they will work out the continuation of 15%GasTerug and the presentation of the impact and keep us updated through the platform!

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