Energy transition is both a goal and a means to an end. The goal is to realize a CO2-free living environment, but it can also be used as a lever to achieve a way of living together, a community, that is sustainable in every respect: economically, ecologically and socially.

Energy transition takes behavioral change

© IABR, Ooze

From petroculture to postfossil culture
The energy transition affects every aspect of our lives: housing, working, mobility, nutrition, comfort, and culture. We are moving from a petroculture to a postfossil culture and this requires a new paradigm, new philosophies, and new ways of doing things. It’s clear that the transition cannot be made on the basis of the thinking and the doing that got us into trouble in the first place. It requires a new narrative of who we are and what we want, what we can want. More and more writers, thinkers, designers, and scientists are working on that new narrative. They are outlining a new paradigm, a different relationship with nature and the world, an economy based on other, more sustainable values that takes nature and society into account and an energy system that exists for the benefit ofthe community, that belongs to the community rather than prevails at its expense. In short, a paradigm that enables us to re-establish ourselves in the territory, and in good balance with nature: Down to Earth.

How then can we use the energy transition as a lever to work on this alternative future? Can we make such a paradigm change conceivable at the level of the neighborhood, for example, where the community can play a key role?
We think we can and we know why we ought to: rising temperatures and sea levels, loss of biodiversity and the depletion of resources, food shortages, floods and droughts, surging migrant flows, increasingly extreme weather conditions – and the list gets longer.
And we also know what to do: switch to the sustainable energy generated by the sun, the wind and the earth as quickly as possible, to circular material flows, to smarter mobility, and to more plant-based food, to equal sharing and to more inclusivity.

neighborhood as battery

© IABR, Ooze

What is our agenda?
The transition to the sustainable production of solar and wind energy is also a transition to a different energy management system, from centralized to decentralized, from extractive to circular, and therefore possibly to other forms of ownership. After all, especially at the level of the neighborhood in which the energy is generated, stored and traded, one can ask to whom the energy actually belongs. Rather than mere consumers, neighborhood residents – especially if they associate – can also become producers, distributors and entrepreneurs. The neighborhood as a battery: by cleverly linking the energy system to the local economy, the energy transition can also be a social transition. In that case the issue of commoning, the securing of common ownership in such a way that citizens not only receive energy bills, but also get to actively co-own the transition and profit from it, becomes pivotal.
To achieve a more socially inclusive transition and implement it spatially, we need a LEAP, a Local Energy Action Plan supported by the community, which is what IABR–Atelier Rotterdam, under the aegis of its lead designer Eva Pfannes (Ooze Architects and Urbanists) is now developing together with many partners in and residents of Bospolder-Tussendijken (BoTu). In the late fall, the results will be presented at the biennale.

IABR in BoTu

How now?
But as yet, we don’t know enough about how to achieve our ambitions, about how to go from an action plan to action. How now?
This is why, in the spring of 2021, IABR will launch the Workshop BoTu in the Bospolder-Tussednijken district, that will take over, as it were, from the Atelier Rotterdam. We are going to build, learn from each other, and practice and experiment together, using an integrated approach. We are going to get to work in order to make practical connections between the generation, storage and distribution of new forms of sustainable energy; the need to develop local energy-ownership and the building of a new commons; and the urgency to contribute, on the level of the neighborhood, to the achievement of all the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

Energy transition as leverage for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in Bospolder-Tussendijken