Participatory energy planning in the Maritime Alps

The project has allowed the most suitable renewable energy sources to be identified for the Gesso and Vermenagna Valley area

The project has allowed the most suitable renewable energy sources to be identified for the Gesso and Vermenagna Valley area. (c) Martime Alps Nature Park

The region of the Gesso and Vermenagna Valleys in the Maritime Alps Nature Park is one of the six pilot areas. The Renewable Energy Institute at EURAC is supporting energy planning in the valley, in particular as regards the development of forest biomass energy and hydroelectric power by applying a decision support system. This system was developed by the Institute and has been implemented in all of the study areas based on local needs and requests.

Interview with Giorgio Curetti and Gianluca Grilli, EURAC

Why was the Gesso and Vermenagna Valley area used for a pilot study for the project?

There is a need in the study area both to develop renewable energy and to preserve natural ecosystems. Careful planning is therefore necessary to take account of the numerous variables. We interviewed eight experts who each gave their opinions on the impact that various forms of renewable energy (solar-photovoltaic, wind, hydroelectric and forest biomass) could have on a series of ecosystem services and on local development. Using their answers we have identified the most suitable energy sources for the study area.

The project study areas have seen the start of a participatory process for managing common energy resources. What is the advantage of this sort of process?

This process allows all stakeholders to participate in the early planning stage. Stakeholder meetings are scheduled for the beginning of 2015. Participatory processes are essential in order to increase and improve the democratic involvement and sense of belonging of the people living near with the natural resources in question. They are also important in managing and limiting the conflicts that can arise when decisions are made by a few individuals without informing citizens.

Can the results be compared with other pilot areas?

Each pilot area has its own special cases and needs, but there are some similarities. The Maritime Alps Nature Park can easily be compared with the park in Belluno province. The experts have in fact suggested similar energy planning strategies, in both cases issuing a positive opinion on the exploitation of hydropower and forest biomass. Another very similar case is the Triglav National Park. In fact, both areas are subject to quite strict legal constraints, with a significant environmental protection regime in place.