The case study takes place in the Pilastro-Roveri district in the northeast of Bologna, where a financed Green Energy Community project (GECO) has been running since 2019 to support communities in the process of designing and creating a green energy community. Pilastro-Roveri is a socio-economically stratified district composed of two areas:
Pilastro “Rione” (neighbourhood): a residential neighborhood with a long history of activism but also of socio-economic issues.
Roveri area: distinctly separated from Pilastro by a former railway terminal, is an industrial and productive neighborhood hosting a variety of companies in sectors such as packaging, mechanics, and electric vehicles. The area also hosts the Agriculture and Food Center of Bologna’s (CAAB) food and agriculture theme park (FICO) with its industrial partners, which has the largest solar power plant on industrial roofs within the EU.
Civic activism can be a trigger for energy community creation
The Pilastro “Rione” is composed by a high percentage of social housing and low-rent apartment, and few flats owned by the inhabitants. The area has a high percentage of elderly and immigrant residents, but also of teenagers and families. Its population is mostly unaware of questions related to energy, and can have a limited understanding of technical subjects. In addition, a tendency towards competition, privatism and NYMBYs phenomena may hinder the participation of entrepreneurs and companies, especially in the Roveri area, decreasing institutional trust and increasing conflicts in the management of buildings and their maintenance, exacerbated by diversified properties.
However, the area hosts a high percentage of associations, committees and groups of active citizens who for decades have been working with the local community on many issues. The same attitude has not yet been seen in Roveri, where only a few experiences of community engagement have occurred. Although the experiences are small, they are important. The area also shows potential in renewable energy features and opportunities for production and storage.
Testing strategies to combat injustice and exclusion in the energy transition
Due to its geographical, functional, and social nature, the Pilastro-Roveri case study will provide grounds for testing strategies for combating injustice and exclusion in the energy transition by, for example, enabling better understanding, use and sharing of energy data, and tailoring of place-based solutions for the specific areas.
In the case study, we will identify and describe the attitude of the community towards energy behaviors through a series of incremental activities, such as collective urban district treks, monthly roundtables with local associations, and participant observation in local neighborhoods.
By establishing mechanisms of engagement via the existing GECO community, participating in the associations’ monthly meetings, triggering collaboration among companies and agreements between property owners and tenants, we aim to support the community to an active engagement level where aware, involved citizens take decisive action towards energy goals and at the same time create alternative governance mechanisms. The case study is led by the University of Bologna and is currently in its initial stage.