We interviewed Carles Ruiz, Mayor of Viladecan.
Why did your city decide to apply under Urban Innovative Actions?
The Urban Innovative Actions program offers a unique opportunity to develop innovative ideas, in a context where it is not easy for local authorities to take financial risks. We had a very challenging and innovative project in mind, and this program allowed us to develop it. We were attracted by the fact that it was a program specially ‘customized for cities’, where they can experiment with new ideas. Unlike some other funding programs, which are often more rigid, Urban Innovative Actions offers cities the opportunity to design their own and specific projects.
What do you consider to be the most innovative element of your project towards energy transition?
Vilawatt aims to create a new electric company, based in the form of a PPCP (public-private-citizen partnership) to secure a stable energy transition process in Viladecans. We will start with the rehabilitation of 60 dwellings in one of our districts, La Montserratina, and the most remarkable innovation of the solution lies in this PPCP integrating 4 key tools for the energy transition, which has never been implemented before:
- Local energy operator
- Local energy savings service operator (including innovative Energy Savings Contracting Model to capitalize energy savings)
- Local energy investments operator (ESCO for deep energy renovation investments)
- Local energy savings-based currency.
With these 4 tools, we will be able to improve the electrical supply contracts in homes and make them more efficient, while also improving the energy management habits of citizens. We will stimulate the local economy with the introduction of a new local currency, the Vilawatt, while offering new training opportunities, thus creating more employment.
The initial rehabilitation works of 60 dwellings will make them more energy efficient. The savings they’ll generate will become the initial engine to start the mechanism of the PPCP structure that we want to create. With this capitalization of savings, the PPCP will be able to finance new rehabilitations in other houses. We will be creating a new circular economy system, and all citizens who are part of the PPCP will have their savings returned in Vilawatts.
What are the main changes that you expect to achieve in your municipality with this project?
At the end of the process, we know that, as citizens:
- We will have saved money in our bill;
- Our houses will be more comfortable and more efficient;
- We will generate savings to make the PPCP work;
- We will use this Savings to start other rehabilitation works in neighbors and communities;
- We will stimulate the local economy with a new currency.
After 6 months of implementation, can you tell us where you are with the project and what are the main challenges you are/expect to be confronted to?
The project is in the phase of analysis of all the elements that will be crucial for its deployment. It consists mainly on the creation of all the scaffold operation structure of Vilawatt: besides the steering committees and the UA core group, 3 additional working groups have been created: 1) PPCP; 2) rehabilitation works; 3) community works.
The first working group, related to the PPCP and its management tools, has done the benchmarking tasks to identify the strengths and weaknesses of similar experiences, as well as the definition of the juridical and financial aspects.
Concerning the group for rehabilitation works, the most difficult task they are facing now is the identification and selection of the buildings that have to be renovated. It is necessary to carry out this process through open administrative proceedings, ensuring public concurrence and in accordance with the strict administrative deadlines and the participative approach.
Concerning the Community Works Group, a specific working group has been created to define the actions aiming at:
- Building confidence in ‘early adopters’ (promoters of future experiences)
- Incentivizing community commitments in energy transition actions (citizens, public and private entities)
- Strengthening local economy (professionals, enterprises, business)
One of the biggest challenges that we have identified, is to keep a participatory approach during the implementation phase and to ensure the active participation of all key stakeholders. In this sense, most of the work done by the working group 3 (community works) has been focused on the strategies to maintain the citizens’ attraction towards the project and all the key players active in regards to the project’s execution.
There is a very important element that we have to keep always in mind: to build trust. Therefore, all the steps that we do have to be very carefully studied, all processes must be integrated so that communication, participation and community work are present in all fields of project implementation.