IMAGINE brochure cover

Stéphane Dupas is the project manager for the project “IMAGINE low energy cities”. This is a pan-European initiative led by the European network of local authorities Energy Cities and supported by the European Commission (under the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)) through its INTERREG IVC programme. Launched in 2012, it is intended to get cities to think and act differently about energy.

In this wide-ranging interview, Stéphane talks about the cities that are involved, eight of them from different European countries. They are not the usual suspects for this type of project and there are many different barriers to be overcome.

One of the key aims of the project is to engage local people, households and businesses in the mission to gain energy security, to aim at 100% locally-generated renewable electricity and implement energy efficiency measures.

He explains that this is what makes the IMAGINE campaign different from others to do with sustainable development and the use of energy in cities.

Imagine brochure AThe project is uncovering the fact that only some cities have sufficient administrative control for themselves over all the relevant policy areas to take the steps that are required, and he identifies which are the crucial policy areas that it is necessary to have control over for the aims to be realised.

The project consists of 30 proposals for the energy transition of cities and towns. One of them is to make the planning system a driver of a territory's energy transition. This is one policy area that some cities have great difficulties with, but for those that do have planning control over energy infrastructure it can make all the difference.

We also discuss whether the current falling price of energy, and the need for high capital expenditure in some cases (for example by installing a district heat main) at a time of budget shrinkage, cause problems for cities trying to transition to low energy consumption.

Imagine brochure BAnother barrier to be overcome is that of silo mentalities amongst administrative departments. Stéphane discusses ways in which this can be and is being overcome in different cities.

Jevons paradox states that when we save energy, paradoxically we just end up consuming more, and Stéphane explains how the project is addressing this and then describes the outcomes of the project including a highly imaginative brochure consisting of recommendations, conclusions and case studies.