Comparing local energy change: the French-German Composite project

Co-funded by the French environment and energy agency ADEME, the Composite project aimed to analyse local energy reorganisation processes in four regions. Running from 2012 to 2014, it adopted an actor-centered perspective and compared two French and two German, urban and rural regions.

This picture was kindly provided by the City of Bottrop EIFER was in charge of the case study on the Ruhr city Bottrop. This city, winner of the ‘Innovation City Ruhr’ (IC) contest, is about to transform a whole city area of around 70,000 residents into a low-carbon district. Committed to its goal of cutting CO2 emissions by half until 2020 (compared to 2010), the city, together with multiple stakeholders, has initiated over 100 single projects in the areas of urban planning, housing, industry, tertiary buildings, and transport.

Issued in February 2014, the final project report presents the main findings of this case study. It first discusses important elements that favoured the early developments of Bottrop’s energy transition: the trustful, personal relationships between key staff members in the city administration, the personal commitment of its mayor, and the political support provided by an “informal big coalition”.

This figure was kindly provided by the IC Management GmbH The core section of the report then highlights significant “institutional reconfiguration processes” accompanying the IC project, that is changes in the systems of rules structuring the interaction of stakeholders. Amongst others, these are: the creation of a weekly project round table, assembling all decision makers and technical experts involved in the on-going projects (organisational-procedural adaptations); the creation of shared standards of qualification among crafts businesses, architects and energy advisers (normative adaptations); reconfigured exchange relationships, leading to reputation gains for participating external organizations and increased flows of money (investments), expertise and insider information benefiting the city administration (strategic adaptations); the recombination of formerly separated knowledge fields (e.g. for plus energy standard refurbishments) and the redefinition of stakeholder identities (cognitive adaptations).

The final outlook analyses important paradigmatic tensions, which represent a risk for the achievement of Bottrop’s energy transition objectives. For instance, a recurring conflict results from the somehow contradictory ambitions to develop flagship projects which create high visibility for their stakeholders on the one hand, and to achieve large scale and effective, but more “trivial” changes to the benefit of the residents, on the other hand. The report (in English) is available online.

Note: the pictures used to illustrate this text were kindly provided by the City of Bottrop and the Innovation City Management GmbH.

Contact: Andreas Huber