Noor Veenhoven

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Noor Veenhoven, Program manager energy & circularity at Amsterdam Smart City, posted

Demoday #23: Co-creating with residents in the heat transition

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The heat transition is in full swing. Municipalities want their residents off the gas and want them to switch to renewable sources of heat. Unfortunately, heat grids have often led to frustrated residents. Which in turn has led to delayed or cancelled plans for the municipality.

Dave van Loon and Marieke van Doorninck (Kennisland) have looked into the problems surrounding heat grids and came up with a plan. In this Demoday work-session we dived into the problems surrounding heat grids and their plan to solve them. The session was moderated by our own Leonie van Beuken.

Why residents get frustrated with heat grid plans

Involving residents in the planning of a heat grid is difficult. It takes a lot of time and effort and the municipality is often in a hurry. This is why they choose for a compromise in which they already make the plan, but try to involve citizens at the end part. However, this leads to residents not having anything to say in the plans. They can block the plans, but they can’t really make changes. This leads to a lot of dissatisfaction.

This top-down approach doesn't seem to be ideal for involving residents in the heat transition. That's why Kennisland is working on developing a plan for early collaboration with residents in the heat transition of neighbourhoods, with a focus on connecting with the community's concerns.

They have seen that this kind of approach can be successful by looking at the K-buurt in Amsterdam-Zuid-Oost. In the initial stages, the first plan for the K-buurt didn't gain much traction. However, when they shifted towards a more collaborative approach, people felt empowered to engage, leading to a more meaningful participation process. Instead of traditional town hall meetings, discussions took place in community spaces like the local barber shop. This shift towards genuine participation and co-creation has resulted in a much-improved end product, one that residents truly support and believe in.

The plan for co-creation in the heat transition

The plan that Kennisland came up with consists of a few key points that are necessary for success:
• Engage with residents early on in the process.
• Also consider other issues in the neighbourhood. There might be more pressing concerns for the residents themselves.
• Ensure accessibility for everyone to participate.
• Truly collaborate on developing a list of requirements.
• Harness creativity.
• Work in a less compartmentalized manner.
They aim to form a neighbourhood alliance and organize a community council. Together a plan can be made for the neighbourhood that all residents can get behind.
This plan might take a bit longer at the start, but that investment in time will pay itself back in the end.

SWOT analysis of co-creation plan

After Dave and Marieke explained their plan we did a SWOT analysis with the group. We looked at the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats of the plan.

The main strength that was pointed out was the ability to make a plan together with the residents. The residents experience the neighbourhood differently than a government official, which makes the final plan more beneficial to everyone.

The weaknesses the group saw in the plan were mainly that this could potentially slow down the process. Should we maybe do less participation instead of more and use force to get this heat transition going?

There were a lot of opportunities identified for this plan. The quality of the plan (and the neighbourhood) can greatly increase. By slowing down at the start we can actually accelerate and improve the neighbourhood on many levels. This plan also offers a great learning experience.

Finally, we went into the threats. One of the big threats that was pointed out was the lack of trust. If residents don’t trust the municipality and the process then it will never be possible to let this plan succeed. The explanation to residents also needs to be understandable. The explanation around a heat grid can get technical very quickly, and residents often don’t have the background to understand everything. The last threat that was pointed out was that if you get a lot of input from the residents for the plan, you also have to do something with that, and still be realistic. You have to work hard to manage expectations.

We completed the session by asking the participants if they knew any partners and places to collaborate with for this plan, or if they had any other ideas to make this plan successful.

We would now like to ask the same questions to you! Do you know someone who would like to partner up with Kennisland, do you know a place where this plan can be tested, or do you have any other ideas? Let us know by contacting me at noor@amsterdamsmartcity.com.

Noor Veenhoven's picture #Energy
Noor Veenhoven, Program manager energy & circularity at Amsterdam Smart City, posted

Cooperative challenge: How can we help to mainstream energy cooperatives and ensure that structures in society make room for them and barriers are resolved?

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In the past decade, we have witnessed a surge of cooperatives across society. From community-led energy projects to endeavours in collective mobility and housing, citizens and companies are increasingly organizing themselves to shape their surroundings, often driven by sustainability and social goals and most of them do this in a not for profit way. Despite this rich history and the ongoing proliferation of initiatives, cooperative efforts and their benefits often remain small-scale and localized and, in most cases, accessible only to specific and select demographics.

This challenge aims to help civil society organizations in the energy domain, such as energy cooperatives, to become more mainstream. We aim to create recognition, to create an understanding of mutual interests with the key stakeholders they have to work with, and to exchange knowledge for these organizations to grow faster or repeat.

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Noor Veenhoven, Program manager energy & circularity at Amsterdam Smart City, posted

Underground Challenge: Collaborating, Sharing Data, and Co-Planning

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The underground is filled with infrastructure and other assets, including electricity cables, fibre optic cables, gas pipelines, heat networks, sewers, and more. Additionally, underground spaces host natural elements crucial for maintaining a healthy urban environment, such as soil essential for urban trees. Consequently, various stakeholders regularly need access to the underground, each with their own interests, creating significant pressure on the underground. Frequent excavation leads to disruptions, extensive damage, and trees that don’t age past 60 (which is very young for trees).

Improvements can be made by enhancing collaboration among stakeholders, sharing more data, and collectively planning underground activities. Understanding the interests of all involved parties is crucial to developing an action plan aimed at enhancing the quality and management of the underground.

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Noor Veenhoven, Program manager energy & circularity at Amsterdam Smart City, posted

Circular Challenge: How Can We Stimulate Circular Business Models in the Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Chain?

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Circular initiatives often struggle to progress beyond the pilot phase, including circular charging infrastructure. Numerous barriers hinder these circular initiatives:
• Lack of data on products and how circular/sustainable they are.
• Difficulty in implementing circularity across the entire production chain.
• Regulatory obstacles.
• Current higher costs associated with circular production, leading to more expensive products.
To overcome these barriers, adjustments to regulations are necessary to better align with circular initiatives, alongside the establishment of shared ownership within the production chain.

Noor Veenhoven's picture #CircularCity
Noor Veenhoven, Program manager energy & circularity at Amsterdam Smart City, posted

Demoday #22: Navigating eco-emotions: The impact of working in sustainability on your mental wellbeing

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Professionals in the field of circularity and sustainability may experience "eco-emotions," a spectrum of feelings which can have both negative and positive effects on mental health. Eco-emotions arise from ecological crises, such as climate change, and can lead to stress, fatigue, and a sense of powerlessness, but also heightened motivation for professionals.

This work session, led by Marian Zandbergen (CIRCOLLAB, HvA) and moderated by Mareille de Bloois (Royal HaskoningDHV) on the 14th of December, explored the challenges and opportunities associated with eco-emotions, both personally and within organizations. The key question addressed was: How can individuals and organisations constructively manage eco-emotions, and what implications does this have for organisations?

Defining eco-emotions

Eco-emotions are feelings resulting from ecological crises, which can be categorized into backward-looking and forward-looking emotions.

  • Backward-looking eco-emotions: include eco-guilt, eco-grief, and eco-anger about past events, such as feeling guilty about the carbon footprint of a vacation flight.
  • Forward-looking eco-emotions: encompass eco-anxiety, and focus on current and anticipated future decisions. While eco-anxiety can drive proactive engagement with ecological issues, excessive amounts may lead to feelings of helplessness.

Negative eco-emotions can thus harm your mental health and can even lead to burnout. Therefore, it is important to use strategies to counter the negative effects of eco-anxiety.

Changing attitudes - taking action
Attitudes shape behaviour, and self-efficacy—the belief in one's ability to contribute to problem-solving—is crucial. Concrete action perspectives empower individuals, fostering a sense of control over problems and mitigating feelings of helplessness of eco-anxiety.

Social support - acting as a group
Collaborative efforts within a group can positively impact perceived self-efficacy. Strong collaboration can turn negative effects of eco-anxiety into positive outcomes. Trust and shared motivation play vital roles in effective collaborations, fostering understanding across personal and organisational perspectives.

In the group - recognition and solutions

The participants of the workshop shared personal experiences of eco-emotions and brainstormed constructive ways to incorporate these emotions into circular transition collaborations. Ideas included conducting organizational research to understand the extent of eco-emotions and gain insight into personal motivations in businesses and collaboration, and demonstrating how intrinsic beliefs contribute to shared goals.

Proposed solutions
To address eco-emotions within organizations, various methods were proposed, including workshops with inspiration and practical applications, an HR framework, 'meet & share' sessions featuring talks with industry leaders, and personal purpose hours.

Marian expressed a desire to continue researching this topic, inviting contributions through qualitative interviews within organizations. Are you interested in contributing to this research, please let me know in the comments, or email me at noor@amsterdamsmartcity.com.

Noor Veenhoven's picture #CircularCity
Noor Veenhoven, Program manager energy & circularity at Amsterdam Smart City, posted

Demoday #22: How can we continue to facilitate homeowners in driving the energy transition?

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Grid congestion is becoming increasingly significant and will start to pose a problem in the low-voltage network in the coming years. This will prevent homeowners from transitioning away from gas, result in low efficiency for their solar panels, and could make it impossible to have a charging station at their doorstep. Alliander does not want to hinder the energy transition. Therefore, they are looking for a way to involve homeowners in the issue of grid congestion and provide solutions that are still feasible with a crowded grid.

In the energy work session on the 14th of December, Wouter van Rooijen (Alliander) discussed the challenges related to grid congestion. From 2030 onwards, it is expected that a significant portion of the low-voltage network will experience both over- and under-voltage. While the network will be reinforced as quickly as possible, the lack of labour capacity is also prompting the consideration of alternative solutions.

The solution that emerged from Wouter's co-creation process was WijkWise. In this work session, Wouter aimed to validate the WijkWise concept and find parties that could contribute to its development and market implementation. Dave van Loon from Kennisland moderated the session.

WijkWise – Understanding the neighbourhood's grid situation

The WijkWise concept focuses on three problems:

  • The growth of grid congestion at low-voltage
  • Homeowners' uncertainty about making sustainable investments. For instance, because they may not know if their solar panels will yield a good return.
  • Homeowners' lack of awareness regarding the impact their choices have on the stability of the grid.

The proposed solution:
"With WijkWise, Alliander continues to facilitate homeowners in making their homes more sustainable. Alliander does this by providing insight into the neighbourhood's grid situation and recommending the best investment. Residents can make informed choices that contribute to payback time, comfort, and certainty. A good choice benefits both the homeowner and the grid operator."

The idea is to provide more insight into the neighbourhood's grid situation and offer tailored advice for home sustainability. This way, homeowners can determine whether they should invest in insulation, a heat pump, or solar panels.

Alliander does not want to develop this concept alone, but is seeking partners to bring this concept to market.

Discussion

After the concept presentation, a brief discussion followed. The main questions raised were:

  • Can providing insight into the neighbourhood's grid situation have (negative) effects on the housing market?
    → They don't know yet; further investigation is needed.
  • Can this data be shared freely?
    → The data shared will be at the neighbourhood level (transformer level) and not in real-time (monthly). If there is user data involved, consent must be obtained.
  • What behaviour change do you expect?
    → That, during the investment moment, consideration will be given to the grid situation for the most advantageous investment.

After the discussion, we worked in groups with the Empathy Canvas from Kennisland to view the WijkWise concept from the perspective of the homeowners. This tool helped us really view the problems from the perspective of a homeowner.

Empathy Mapping

In three groups, we delved into the homeowner's situation. The recurring themes in the empathy maps were:

  • A sense of unfairness for the homeowner. They invest in sustainability and are rewarded with grid congestion problems.
  • A feeling of uncertainty for the homeowner. They want assurance that their investment will yield results.
  • Little trust in the grid operator and the government. First, everyone had to get solar panels, and now suddenly it doesn't fit, and net metering is being discontinued (or not?)
  • Limited understanding by homeowners because they find it very complicated and don't want to delve into it. It's not an urgent problem for them.
  • Collaboratively seeking solutions can be very positive, but can also lead to friction.

Alliander plans to take the next steps with this concept in 2024. In 2024, they are planning to do the follow-up research, make the minimal viable product, and launch the first version of the product at the end of the year.

Do you know of any stakeholders that absolutely need to be involved, or would you like to be involved in the implementation of the WijkWise concept? Please contact Noor at noor@amsterdamsmartcity.com. Special thanks to Wouter and Dave for this interesting session.

Noor Veenhoven's picture #Energy