Local Governments Supporting Local Energy Initiatives: Lessons from the Best Practices of Saerbeck (Germany) and Lochem (The Netherlands)
Sustainability 2015, 7(2), 1900-1931
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The social dimension of the transition to a low carbon economy is a key challenge to cities. The establishment of local energy initiatives (LEIs) has recently been attracting attention. It is of great importance to draw lessons from best practices when LEIs have been facilitated by local governments and made a substantial contribution to greening local energy systems. The main research questions in this paper are: What lessons can be drawn from successful local low carbon energy transition cases, and which strategies proved successful to support LEIs? We have used analytical notions from the Strategic Niche Management (SNM) and grassroots innovation literature to analyze two best-practice cases: Saerbeck (Germany) and Lochem (The Netherlands). Data collection involved a set of fourteen in-depth interviews and secondary data. The results show that three key factors from SNM (building networks, managing expectations, and facilitation of learning) are of great importance. However, to a great degree it is also strategic, community serving, responsive, reflexive leadership and proper process management by public officials that spurred success, which would not have been possible without close interaction and mutual trust between local government and representatives of the local communities.