City donates digital currency in exchange for energy savings
In this episode of Smart Regions, we take a look at a European transformation project that is saving huge amounts of energy. Several buildings in a district of the Catalan town of Viladecans have been renovated to allow residents to play an active role in managing their energy. They also have their own digital currency.
In Spain, 17% of houses are energy inefficient. But just south of Barcelona, the city of Viladecans has recently undergone a huge transformation. The authorities have renovated an entire neighborhood to make houses more energy efficient.
The project, called Vilawatt, first started in the densely populated district of Montserratina. The goal: to modernize poorly insulated houses, most of which were built in the 1970s.
Despite some delays, due to the pandemic, the works have completely changed the building of Francisca.
“In winter, it is obviously not that cold inside, while in summer, it is not that hot. And the type of glazing they used also made a big difference in terms of sound, ”she says.
Windows, doors, fences and blinds were all changed in three buildings. In addition to interior and exterior insulation, the city has also installed photovoltaic panels.
Pere Gutiérrez Almany, coordinator of the project, explains that the buildings have been transformed into “energy communities” capable of sharing power.
“When excess energy is produced, it is possible to connect to different parts of the neighborhood within a radius of 500 meters. We can communicate with different parts of the community and share energy with other neighborhoods, even if they are not directly connected to the Vilawatt facility. ”
The cost of the project was 5.3 million euros. 80 percent of which came from EU cohesion policy.
Vilawatt is the result of a public-private partnership. Nearly 600 inhabitants have already benefited from the green offer of the local energy operator. An important part of the initiative is that it seeks to empower residents by providing them with advice and assistance with their contracts and bills.
The inhabitants, in collaboration with the companies, also have a say in the implementation of the project.
Residents are also rewarded for the energy they save. The project has already reduced consumption by 30 percent on average. These savings are then transformed into a virtual currency, also called Vilawatt- which can be used in over 400 businesses across town, such as this baby clothing and accessories store.
“There are people who wouldn’t normally come to our store, but they come because they have Vilawatt currency. And you don’t need to have a card or physical cash with you. You can pay with an app on your mobile. We move… one, two, three or four sales a day with the currency Vilawatt ”, explains shops co-owner Sonia.
Here, the energy debate is now part of everyday life, thanks to the involvement of everyone.