Dialogue about the transition to sustainable energy

Energy transition

Like other municipalities in the Netherlands, the municipality of Utrecht faces the challenge of managing the energy transition of the city. An important condition is the active involvement of its residents and for that reason the municipality organized the 'Stadsgesprek Nieuwe Energie'.

In that urban dialogue different groups reflected about potential guidelines for the energy transition. By exchanging ideas, the participants arrived at draft guidelines that could be tested throughout the city. View the report of the Utrecht municipality, with also the QandR visuals inside.

Give stakeholders a say in the guidelines for the realization of the plans

Online meetings with a.o. wordclouds, moodboards and polls

Number of participants:
11 sessions with each 20-40 participants

Covid restrictions prevented holding physical meetings. Instead, six digital conversations were organised: one for youngsters, three for Utrecht citizens aged 18 and over, one for entrepreneurs and one for energy initiatives. Because of the high turnout per meeting, the group was often divided into two sessions by using breakout rooms - resulting in a total of 11 sessions. Fortunately, QandR also supports this breakout function and offers the option of combining the results of each session in the report afterwards. See here the results of 11 combined sessions, with input provided by a total of 235 participants.

Introduction quiz

As an introduction to the subject of Sustainable Energy, the municipality opted for a Poll to pose a few quiz questions and visualize participants' knowledge of Utrecht's current energy management. The Moodboard was used as well to question everyone about what they could do themselves to contribute to the energy transition.

In the same introduction, the Poll was used to find out what participants wanted to talk about. Their options were: solar panels, insulation and windmills. Once the group had made their choice, the facilitator used the Remote Control to quickly navigate to that topic. During the rest of the session as well, QandR contributed to an active and attentive attitude of all participants. A range of modules made it very easy to contribute to the conversation.

QANDR is a tool that gives space to a digital conversation and inspires and activates participants. This space is created with the movement of their dot and during the conversation you see that they influence each other, change their mind, and come up with new ideas.

Lars Schotel - Participation advisor | Municipality Utrecht

Guidelines for Solar Panels

On the subject of solar panels, the first thing discussed was the current situation in Utrecht, i.e. facts and figures on the number and type of rooftops that now have solar panels and what the city council's ambition is.

Next, the group reflected with a Dilemma on the choices to be made as to what purpose rooftops should serve. They can be used for solar panels, but in this densely populated city, greenery and/or sport fields have an important added value as well. Compared to the Poll, the Dilemma has the advantage that participants can take a more specific position. So instead of black-white or for-against, they can (also live during the discussion) move their dot continuously across the line between the extremes. This has the advantage that the conversation takes on a more nuanced character and there is also room to adjust your position on the basis of careful listening and mutual arguments.

Each topic was concluded with a Wordcloud where residents were explicitly asked about perceived risks around the construction of solar panels, so that these could be taken into account in the design of the guidelines.

Guidelines insulation

When it comes to insulation, first to consider were the various types of insulation, such as roof, floor and wall insulation, as well as the possibility of using insulating glass. It became clear that the heat demand decreases significantly after the insulation is added and in many cases the payback period is less than 5 years.

Next, the current status of insulation was discussed, with only 17% of homes in Utrecht having an energy label A. It was also pointed out that, particularly when more homes are taken off the gas, the need for insulation will increase. And that the need for insulation will increase when more houses are switched off from gas.

A Dilemma was used to discuss who is responsible for insulation and to what extent the municipality should take on a supporting role. This was addressed more specifically in a Quadrant by asking, on one axis, whether this should be done house by house, or whether it would be better to insulate an entire street at once, and on the other axis, whether the financial incentive should come from the payback period or whether a higher property tax for houses with a poor energy label is also negotiable. Both the dilemma and the quadrant gave the opportunity to take a nuanced position.

Finally, Polls and Wordclouds were used to find out what participants find important when it comes to insulation, and what guidelines they consider important. The Wordcloud has the advantage that the less talkative participants can give their input and that participants can upvote each other's ideas, that then become larger in the Wordcloud.

Guidelines for wind turbines

Sustainable energy is a fine principle that generally is supported by many. It is when this abstract objective is translated to concrete goals that opponents raise their heads. An obvious case in point is the windmill. Cleary a solution that renders sustainable energy, but most people would rather not have one of them in their back yard.

The first Poll was to find out what the best place was for placing windmills. A Dilemma was then used to discuss whether or not recreation and nature can be combined with windmills.

The Wordcloud at the end of the discussion showed that noise pollution is a clear concern, especially when windmills are placed near residential areas and that people are particularly afraid that the windmills will be at the expense of nature.

Evaluation of the urban dialogue

The aim of all the sessions was to hear how Utrechters view the transition to sustainable energy. And whether the municipality can come to better agreements to increase the contribution of residents, organizations and the municipality. These new 'rules of the game' could help to properly implement the agreements in the Climate Agreement supervised by the municipality.

QandR's modules also offer good opportunities to reflect with participants at the end of the discussion and to see what could be improved. Certainly on a total of 140 participants a 7,66 is a very good average for this city dialogue. This clearly indicates that the participants felt heard and appreciated the way the municipality organised its participation. This average grade for all 11 sessions is a great example of how you can use QandR to aggregate results from multiple sessions.

The Wordcloud can also be used for reflection by asking participants for tips they have for a next discussion. Because a total of 210 ideas were sent in over 11 sessions, this Wordcloud has become rather oversized, but it also demonstrates that participants like to have more say, explicitly seek depth in the discussion, would like to receive more reading material beforehand and prefer to discuss the topics in somewhat smaller groups.

This city dialogue shows that citizens are very eager to participate in the dialogue about making their city more sustainable and have explicit ideas about this. The need for more participation is great and when a municipality is able to organize this participation in a good way, well-substantiated ideas will emerge from residents and entrepreneurs, which can count on more support in a subsequent phase. It is precisely this in-depth dialogue that gives the next step in the implementation a great chance of success.

Get started with templates

The topic of the energy transition has featured in quite a few QandR sessions to date. In collaboration with our partners, we have collected these experiences and processed them into so-called templates. These are ready-made discussion structures available to new QandR users. You can directly use them in your sessions, when discussing for example windmills or installing solar panels. Click here to view them all. Once you select a template it is copied into your QandR dashboard. You can then use the session editor to further adjust this copy to the context of your situation.

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