On the 1st of October 2021 the first SERENE workshop with inhabitants of Aardehuizen and Vriendenerf, two local energy communities in Olst (Province Overijssel, the Netherlands) was held. Its overarching motto was: Power to the people!

Professor Richard van Leeuwen opened the workshop with the phrase: It begins with you (inhabitants of Aardehuizen and Vriendenerf)!” to highlight that our mission as researchers is to empower users in their self-sufficiency and sustainability. Many research activities take part at the University of Twente and Saxion University of Applied Science. We aim to co-design the best possible energy system for you, together with you (inhabitants)” added professor Johann Hurink. This workshop allowed the researchers to introduce themselves to the community and to listen to the ideas and opinions of the citizens. Furthermore, the Dutch partners in the SERENE project explained the basic energy concepts, their expertise and then participated in fruitful discussions on defining the core goals of the community, such as to strengthen the sustainable energy practices of inhabitants within smart energy systems.

Prof. Richard van Leeuwen’s introductory speech

During the first part of the workshop, five research groups from Saxion University and University of Twente, together with the industrial partner Loqio, introduced their expertise in a shared language and invited the inhabitants to think together of a design of smart energy systems for Aardehuizen and Vriendenerf (Figure 1). Main questions from inhabitants were: “What type of systems could SERENE project envision for our communities? What are the possible challenges ahead for inhabitants in this transition?“. Discussions were continued also during the coffee break.

During the second part of the workshop, specific project related expectations or opinions were collected. The ideas of the participants were expressed in word clouds and keywords. Furthermore, Dr. Frans Coenen moderated a round table discussion saying: “Now let’s give it another perspective, what can we learn from Aardhuizen and Vriendenerf? How would you like to contribute to the SERENE project and energy transition“? The majority of inhabitants were enthusiastic about expressing how they envisioned sustainability and their future. The inhabitants felt that their voice was well heard in the SERENE project. Richard van Leeuwen concluded: “As SERENE partners, we are welcoming any suggestions from your side, as You – the inhabitants of Vriendenerf and Aardehuizen –  are the main actors“!

After the workshop, researchers visited the houses of the inhabitants to see the neighborhood and exchange ideas on sustainable living. It has been agreed that the SERENE Dutch partners will meet regularly with inhabitants to interact and inform them about the progress of the SERENE project.

Figure 2: Social innovation discussion moderated by work package leader Frans Coenen
Figure 3: Round table discussion with local community of Vriendenerf and Aardehuizen

Author: Cihan Gercek, PhD, Project Manager
at Sustainable Energy Systems, Saxion University of Applied Sciences