Background to Ghent's Energy Policy

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By Simon Luyts:

"Ghent is the second biggest city in Belgium, with its 251.133 inhabitants. As the first city in Flanders, Ghent signed the Covenant of Mayors in 2009, and has the ambition of becoming climate neutral by 2050. The city’s ambition is translated into an elaborate climate plan, focusing on 6 priorities; building stock renovation, city as role model, renewable energy, mobility, food, and business sector. Concerning the building stock renovation, the city has elaborated different services for its citizens to implement its plan.

One of these services is the “Energiecentrale”, a central body and contact point for citizens to address all the questions concerning energy efficient renovation and a free energy audit of the house and advice which measures to implement. “Sustainable neighborhoods” is a facilitation program put in place to get sustainable citizen initiatives of the ground. When these initiatives need support, advice, expertise to the city provides financial support in this first phase so that they can become autonomous afterwards. Concerning renewable energy, the city of Ghent openly supports citizens who organize themselves in citizen initiatives like energy cooperatives. The city also facilitated citizens investment in renewable energy through the development of energy maps; showing the energy solar potential of rooftops and through thermal pictures, the potential for rooftop insulation.

Ghent is marked by its history of a strong cooperative economy. Citizen participation has been a key element in Ghent’s politics over the last years. This is reflected in the many projects and participation tools the city has put in place; from participation fora and platforms, and budgets available for citizens to implement a project in their neighborhood, to the active support for pioneer citizen initiatives and organizations concerning sustainability. Also the study conducted by the city to map all the Commons initiatives, is an example of its progressive vision. The city gives itself a coordinating role, enabling and coordinating different initiatives, while keeping control to some extent, and guarantying that the overall direction remains within the vision of the city."