Sustainability transitions in local communities: District heating, water systems and communal housing projects
Werkstattbericht Nr. 9 in the TRANSNIK project
Sustainability transitions take place across geographical and political levels. Services such as energy supply, water supply and wastewater management or housing are part of daily life have to be provided at the district level within larger urban governance structures or by smaller rural administrations. However, relatively little attention has been given to the analysis of these local structures. This paper reviews case studies of niches in the areas of district heat networks, communal housing projects for the elderly and sustainable water/wastewater management. The paper addresses the following research questions: 1. What are the similarities and differences in the case study's drivers and barriers that have arisen between the fields of action and what conclusions can be drawn from these insights in order to maximize success factors or to minimize obstacles in advance? 2. What are the key factors for transition, also with regard to the synergies of the three fields of action? 3. What is the stage of development of the niches? Are they in a transition process or not? District heat networks are established as a niche, but given the current policy and financial environment are developing very slowly. Communal housing projects are a small part of the overall housing market, but the niche is stable and growing. Waste water separation and new rain water management systems are developing as niches, but the centralised management of decentralised waste water treatment has so far only been adopted in a few cases. These niches are all critically dependent on support from the district authorities. High complexity and inconsistency in legal frameworks, and missing financial re-sources present significant barriers for innovative niche projects. They usually re-quire new, specific financial support to enable the change from conventional systems. These groups face a difficult period of developing their expertise in planning and management and often require financial support and advice. Consultancy networks - if available - have been shown to be important in enabling such pro-jects to establish themselves. As all three case studies rely on infrastructure components, stakeholders need to consider windows of opportunities for innovation. Acceptance and trust are additional factors influencing the projects. Therefore, constructive and goal-oriented 'interaction' and communication between the stakeholders on district and project level are key factors for success. It is important to share data and information to guarantee an early integration of important stakeholders, including the public.