Power to the People - the Neighbourhood Approach

26 August 2020 - Published by Deirdre Buist
An important goal within the Stronghouse project is to improve social cohesion while encouraging and supporting citizens in the energy renovation of their homes. With a neighbourhood or community approach and the creation of energy cooperatives, the general credo is ‘power to the people’.

During an online session partners exchanged experiences – their challenges and successes – and formulated a number of wants and needs to work on together during the coming years.

Citizens' coalition

The Municipality of Noordenveld empowers neighbourhoods through the local Energy Cooperative Noordseveld, a non-profit green energy supplier run by volunteers. This cooperative works with 100 local energy co-ops and the regional Energie Van Ons to form a strong, citizen-led coalition for renewable energy in the three northern Dutch provinces.

Data collection

Partly due to their geography, The Orkney Islands, face other challenges. While the local council has a duty to reduce fuel poverty, there is a high level of trust and support within the communities. The Council sent a survey to all 10,500 households, thus gaining a great amount of data while they informed citizens about energy renovation. They have an extra focus on the most vulnerable households (low-income).

Behaviour & motivation

Gate21 supports the Danish municipalities of Albertsund and Fredensborg. Together they’ve built and work closely with several local partnerships and cooperatives: Green Pulse and FORS utilities (partner in Stronghouse) for example. The Muncipality of Albertslund also works closely with iNudgeyou, specialized in behavioural research and also a Stronghouse partner. Motivating homeowners and raising awareness is the main challenge, so Gate21 and the municipalities provide homeowners with a free energy audit. So far, the number of renovations is still low.

Free thermo scans

Flemish partner IGEMO has good experience with free thermographic scans, together with the use of local ambassadors, to engage neighbourhoods and create energy communities. IGEMO has found the scans to be a great visual trigger and the accompanying report gives advice on retro-fitting measures. However, it remains a challenge to activate homeowners to act on their new awareness.



ProjectZero set up their neighbourhood approach in the Sonderborg area based on data and raising awareness. They created a map showing which houses have been insulated and subsequently added a layer showing local craft and tradesmen trained by ProjectZero to do the job if needed. In Holm the strong local social cohesion has been key to engaging homeowners. Here citizens set collective ambitions and work together to achieve these – on many fronts.

Wants & needs

In terms of a neighbourhood approach, partners formulated a number of wants and needs to develop during the course of the project:

  • Develop improved tools to engage communities to renovate, speed up and scale up

  • Organize long-term energy cooperatives with inhabitants, entrepreneurs, professionals etc.

  • Maximize use of available funding and move towards whole house renovation.

  • Exchange experience on how to up-scale the community approach.


Working on and with social empowerment takes time - a common goal and shared direction are essential. Investing in local initiatives secures local ownership  thus giving power to the people and building strong communities.

Read the minutes of the Stronghouse online session on Neighbourhood Approach here