Participation for sustainable towns

Involving people can drive renewable energy investment

Citizens are at the very heart of Santorso’s sustainable success story. In 2015, the Italian town launched a volunteer-run Energy Help Desk to raise awareness and encourage renewable energy investment in the community.

Established in October 2015, the help desk provides advice to people on everything from how to reduce their energy bills to investing in photovoltaic systems. A buying group was set up so that families could purchase energy technologies together at cheaper prices. Some 57 families were involved, with 31 deciding to buy and install solar panels, leading to CO2 savings of around 56 tonnes a year. The Help Desk also organised nine public initiatives to promote sustainability and energy savings.

The idea for the Help Desk came about after the Municipality of Santorso sought to involve citizens in their Sustainable Energy Action Plan. Workshops, seminars and trainings were organised to raise awareness and to discover how citizens could most effectively participate in making their town more sustainable.

The Help Desk concept came out of these discussions. A key strength of the initiative is the fact that volunteers are trusted members of the community. The town plans to use this participatory model to address other issues in the future, such as general sustainability and youth activities.