Date and Place: 20 October 2022, Belene (Bulgaria)
With the objective of promoting energy citizenship among women in Bulgaria, the Center for the Study of Democracy, in partnership with the Association of Danube River Municipalities ‘Danube‘ and the Municipality of Belene, organised a ‘Citizen Action Lab in the Context of Energy Transition’.
The event took place in the small Northern Central town of Belene on October 20, 2022. The Lab involved local women in group discussions about the ways in which they engage with energy topics and their attitudes towards low-carbon technologies and the creation of an energy community as a way of addressing energy poverty in the community and region. Dr. Lilia Yakova, Dr. Radostina Primova, Victoria Bogdanova and Remina Aleksieva were the key speakers in this full-day workshop.
How do participants manifest their energy citizenship?
The Citizen Action Lab revealed that there are certain manifestations of energy citizenship among the participants – taking the form of involvement in informal conversations on energy-related questions and investment in domestic energy efficiency measures and RES systems. However, when it comes to agency more broadly, the participants voiced concerns that their scope of action is limited. They expressed an overall sense of powerlessness regarding large-scale decisions about energy and energy consumption – particularly concerning the price of energy – which ultimately depend on stakeholders at the higher levels of government.
The Lab also illuminated some of the barriers that impede the emergence of deep energy citizenship in Bulgaria. Major obstacles include:
Results: List of recommendations to local and national authorities formulated
On a more positive note, the discussions showed that energy citizenship is encouraged by the increasing availability of good examples of RES take-up in local communities.
On the basis of the findings of the Lab, a comprehensive list of recommendations to local and national authorities was put together by the researchers of the Center for the Study of Democracy. Municipalities should ramp up assistance to renewable energy cooperatives and energy community projects and implement detailed action plans to foster inclusive citizen participation in energy matters of local relevance. An urgent task on the agenda of national policy-makers is the development of an enabling framework for energy communities in the country which would be fully aligned with the EU’s RED-II Directive and the upcoming Energy Poverty Strategy. Prosumers and renewable energy communities need to be provided with regulatory certainty about what activities they can engage in and how they can access markets and compete for support with other market participants on a level playing field and without facing discrimination.