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The potential of investments in energy efficiency and distributed generation to contribute to local development in Italy. Which role for local communities?

Final Report Summary - LOCALENERGY (The potential of investments in energy efficiency and distributed generation to contribute to local development in Italy. Which role for local communities?)

The Fellow attained all the objectives of the Fellowship. This project has been initially structured as an interdisciplinary investigation into the potential of investments in energy efficiency and renewable generation to contribute to local development in Italy, with a focus on Italian ‘convergence objective’ regions (i.e. Calabria, Puglia, Sicilia and Campania). As such, the project has been paying particular attention at emerging and innovative forms of community energy. The overarching aim of this research has changed during the first year of the project from specific assessment of new community energy implementation in target regions (‘convergence objective’ regions) to analysing how community energy models have been deployed in Italy to date, which has been their impact on citizens and local community as well as how they could be further developed, standardized and potentially replicated at a national level.

Data and evidence gathered on Italian community energy initiatives has been methodologically structured to provide a comprehensive picture and analysis of Italian community energy sector, with a particular attention to their impact and implications for local communities and citizens involved. Such analysis is at the core of one of the journal publications emerging from this project. The Fellow has also identified two specific case studies (two community energy projects in the northern Lombardia region) for which to run a deeper understanding of: 1. the process through which local stakeholders have been engaged and the project has been developed; 2. the individual motivation and interest of the community of citizens involved in investing and participating to the initiatives. The analysis has been based on semi-structured interviews and an online survey structured across the community of citizens/investors of the two projects. The emerging journal paper aims at providing further understanding of how community energy initiatives in Italy are developed, which are the main stakeholders involved and how they interact, and citizens motivations to invest and participate in such projects.

A particular attention has been given to financing tools for community energy initiatives and implementation of mechanisms for public share offers, and crowdfunding has emerged as a new tool for financing grass root and community energy initiatives. Thus the crowdfunding sector has been studied in details, reviewed in the different models available as well as in its numbers and market trends. The Fellow have done the first worldwide systematic review and analysis of the use of crowdfunding in the energy sector, identifying 42 energy related crowdfunding platform and building up a database of 389 campaigns. Results and outcomes of the systematic review have been used to write the first comprehensive worldwide analysis of the use of crowdfunding in the energy sector, presented in several conferences, published in a book chapter and due to be published on academic journal.
The Fellow has successfully disseminated her project results in the academic arena, both national and international, through publications, participation to conferences and seminars. The project has also implied several outreach activities beyond the academic world. The project has in fact involved collaboration not just with university-based researchers, but with a wide range of actors and stakeholders. The novelty of the research topic (crowdfunding in energy in particular) and networking activities has helped the Fellow to position herself as an expert in the field. Her research results have been picked up by national and EU media and she has been invited to attend several seminar and workshops also outside the academic arena. She has also got new work commissioned and participated to new research project proposals (see below for more details).