By Michela Aufiero


Three municipalities in southern Italy – Palma Campania, San Giuseppe Vesuviano and Striano  – are proving that local authorities can engage citizens meaningfully and make them key actors in the transition to a low carbon economy.

This is demonstrated by the municipalities’ joint 2030 strategy, the Action Plan for Sustainable Energy and Climate, PAESC Vesuviano, which sets out their common vision for energy efficiency and climate change adaptation and will be approved by the three municipalities by December 2020.

The plan was developed by the Shared Office for Sustainability, UCSA, which coordinates the municipalities’ work on environment, energy and climate change. UCSA will support the authorities in implementing measures focusing on public buildings and the public lighting network, and in setting up energy communities to tackle energy poverty.

Tendering that bundles lighting with building renovations

The municipalities are working on a tender procedure which bundles public lighting and renovation of public buildings together. Combining these operations makes sense: it is hard to attract investor interest in renovating public buildings because of the high expense, while public lighting tends to be attractive to investors because of the high and profitable energy consumption. By combining the two tasks, a group of small local authorities can get both done.

Devising contracts that offer benefits as well as being attractive to investors is an innovative model that could be promoted in other contexts. This may be especially interesting to other small groups of municipalities, whose individual tenders tend to attract little interest.

Energy communities tackle energy poverty

The municipalities plan to set up energy communities to promote the benefits of local renewable energy generation and energy efficiency measures.

These communities will be set up with different actors: groups of citizens, residents of a particular development, representatives of enterprises, industry, hospitals, shopping centres and public buildings can come together to produce and manage renewable energy for their own use, to feed into the grid and/or to be stored in batteries for use later. This will ensure there is less waste in distribution, greater energy independence and lower costs for users, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

Circular Economy for Youth

UCSA is also a partner in the CEYOU (Circular Economy for Youth) project, financed by the ERASMUS+ programme, which aims to promote a permanent forum on circular economy for young people (aged 18-30) by empowering them to take positive actions within their local communities, to build a network, and to exchange ideas at local, regional, national and European levels.

The project objectives include awareness raising on sustainability and circularity among citizens and youth associations, co-designing and co-managing new circular services together with youth organizations, and involving youth organizations in defining new sustainability policies and initiatives, through a permanent forum called UCSA-Lab.

In 2020, UCSA organized a CEYOU Hackathon, challenging groups of young people to devise circular economy services to reduce food waste, prevent waste production and extend the lifespan of goods. Originally planned as a two-day event, the coronavirus emergency and resulting lockdown meant it had to be transformed into a virtual event. It was divided into several short plenary events, with teams working individually on their ideas in between. 23 young people, six local associations, three city councillors, three local experts, three municipal officers and two start-up entrepreneurs took part.

A final evaluation session was organized with external experts who evaluated the pitches and chose the three best proposals. These were:

  1. RustiCO2 – A bike delivery system to sell unsold products from the patisserie, bakery and supermarket
    2. Seconda Stagione – A direct connection between agricultural producers and consumers and a sustainable delivery system
    3. CUPS – Co-working spaces and a ‘library of stuff’

UCSA is now working with the participants to test five different circular services ideas (as well as the three winners, these include a plan to customize and sell old clothes and one that involves sharing of goods through a shop and online platform). The initiative was a success during the challenging lockdown period. It gave the young people involved a chance to express their vision and ideas, network on the topic of circular economy, and interact with experts and each other.

The next steps we are working on include involving youth organizations (including those that didn’t take part in the hackathon) in testing and implementing these circular services, and organizing training and networking events to engage and empower a wider group of stakeholders. For the first goal we are organizing a training course based on co-designing, the lean start-up method and business modelling methodologies. In addition, we will run a programme on public networking and training events on sustainability, circular economy and social and sustainable entrepreneurship.

UCSA will replicate this activity on other topics, such as sustainable transport systems and climate change adaptation measures.


About the author:

Michela Aufiero is an health and safety H&S auditor and consultant who supported the drafting of SECAP. In 2018, she was involved in the first monitoring of the SEAP (PAES Vesuviano) project. Aufiero also participated in many EU peer learning projects suih as PROSPECT which  focuses on energy performance contracting for public buildings, TOMORROW which empowers local authorities to lead the transition towards low-carbon, resilient and more liveable cities, and mPOWER which facilitates peer learning for local authorities in order to build fair, clean and democratic energy futures across Europe. 

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Title Image Credit: Comunepalmacampania on Wikimedia Commons