Successful heat transition: These factors are crucial!

Thermal design
successful heat transition through stakeholder participation

The heat transition is the big goal. But getting there is a challenge. Heat planning with the goal of climate-neutral heat generation is new for everyone involved. One needs to identify strategies and involve the relevant players. Knowledge needs to be built up as well. The municipalities have an important role as mediators.

The heat plan: Not a completed process

And: a heating plan is never ‘finished’. It is constantly in process, being adapted and revised. It should be dynamic to be able to respond to changes and take into account new findings.
The process of creating a heat plan is accompanied by learning and knowledge building for everyone involved. After all, in the end, the planning also wants to be implemented in order to successfully approach the heat transition. And this can only succeed if all local conditions and stakeholder interests are taken into account.

Knowledge building and stakeholder participation

The participation of the various local stakeholders is essential for the development and success of the heat plan. They have knowledge, information about the building stock and available energy sources, and much more. Many minds and opinions do make the process more lengthy and sometimes more complicated. In the end, however, there is ideally a satisfactory plan for everyone that promises success.

Identify stakeholders

To enable participation, all relevant stakeholders must first be identified. Who should be involved in heat planning? Who are the stakeholders?
The answer to this question depends on a variety of factors. These include the size of the municipality, the local framework conditions or the different thematic focuses. Brainstorming within the specialist departments of the municipal administration helps to decide on an initial selection of stakeholders.

Potential stakeholders are:

  • Local residents and private households
  • Representatives of trade and industry
  • Craftsmen
  • Existing networks and associations
  • Energy service providers
  • Energy cooperatives
  • Electricity grid operators
  • Housing associations
  • Investors
  • Banks

Implementing participation formats

A variety of formats are available for the participation of local stakeholders and citizens. The goal is to actively involve citizens in the decision-making process. The formats should give them the opportunity to understand the context of the projects and to express their opinions and needs.

Ideas and tips for possible citizen participation formats

One can organize further training measures to ensure the necessary knowledge build-up. The measures can be bundled by having representatives of different groups participate together. This is economical, saves time and also promotes exchange between the actors.

Campaigns and information pamphlets are useful to disseminate information to residents digitally in social media or classically in the mailbox or as a notice in the town hall. Press releases, lectures or exhibitions are also conceivable.

In order to gather opinions and input from local stakeholders, there should be hearings and round tables. Citizens’ reports can also be commissioned for this purpose.

To enable cooperation at eye level, the process should also use formats that give citizens co-determination rights. Working groups with decision-making powers, in which residents can jointly develop and vote on issues, are one possibility.

Consider target group-specific communication

Also important: Participation means that many different stakeholders sit together at the table. Everyone brings different prerequisites to the table. To ensure that all stakeholders are reached, communication and language should be adapted to the respective target group. Someone who addresses local residents with scientific vocabulary and abstract theories will be less successful than someone who communicates the facts in a way that everyone can understand and makes local references.

Increasing acceptance for a successful heat transition

The participation of as many local stakeholders as possible increases the chances of success for heat planning. And not only that: participation creates acceptance. Every new municipal project costs money, time and patience. And for every project, there are proponents, opponents and doubters. If all stakeholders and affected parties are involved in the development of the heat plan from the beginning, it increases acceptance and thus the chances for success.


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Dr.-Ing. Kai Mainzer

Gründer, Leiter F&E

+49 761 7699 4167

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