A Process Approach to Mainstreaming Civic Energy
1. Introduction: Civic Energy as a Paradigm Shift
2. Methodological Approach
- Creation of a protective space in the sense defined by Smith and Raven as “generic spaces that pre-exist deliberate mobilization by advocates of specific innovations, but who exploit the shielding opportunities they provide” . The concept draws on research in the field of sustainability transitions and the necessary regime shifts and is intended to allow niche actors to nurture and improve innovations within supportive socio-technical networks prior to their market launch. Such a space allows for risk-free creative destruction hardly attainable by mere adjustments to the conventional energy model from the sidelines.
- Adoption of a design framework able to host a continuous improvement process (CIP). Since a key feature of civic energy is its adaptability to changing local framework conditions, the CE process needs to provide review and adjustment provisions. In structuring the CE process we adopt Deming’s classic Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle  but extend this to include a Vision element to account for diverse civic energy motivations from outside the energy process (VPDCA).
- Selection of a quality management approach suited to handle value propositions beyond purely financial considerations. Since all initiatives intent on penetrating the market as competitors to the incumbent players are confronted by numerous formal requirements including quality management demands, an early process conformity with standards development is invaluable. However, only a few performance management systems are equipped to accommodate the complex societal value propositions based on multi-criteria decision making that are typical of civic energy. The European Foundation for Quality Management EFQM  is one such exception ; we adopt the strategic EFQM link between targeted process results and process enablers without at this stage prescribing a numerical relationship between the two.
- Provision for a prioritization of community stakeholder interests. Since CE addresses the differing needs of civic stakeholders, these need to be articulated and assessed—and be subjected to ongoing review—via a facilitated stakeholder mobilization effort, that acts not just as a pre-amble but calls for integration into the CE process.
- Specification of the targeted community benefits of the energy innovation. The key distinguishing characteristics between different CE processes are the benefits they deliver to a particular community. The possible gains transcend any sectoral focus and range from but are by no means limited to stable energy pricing, independence from corporate energy interests, combatting energy poverty, financing of improved social infrastructure, increase in market value of property, improved air quality, and opportunities for citizens to contribute to community culture. In line with the EFQM-strategy these targeted results entail differentiations in both the value and supply chains inherent to the process. Also, by specifying community benefits as a product of stakeholder consultations at the outset, the need for acceptance marketing typical of corporate energy dissolves.
- Selection of appropriate enablers to the targeted benefits. This pursuit of the EFQM-based link between results and what the Business Dictionary defines as the “capabilities, forces, and resources that contribute to the success of an entity, program, or project” helps avoid the pitfalls of scattered peripheral but target-unrelated activities and contributes to making civic energy happen in the sense specified by the locally-defined and expected benefits to the community. The possible range of enablers is as unrestricted as the targeted benefits and can include the provision of missing technical, administrative, or sector expertise, the enrolment of support of key individuals, legal empowerment from a responsible authority, the mobilization of a minimum consortium membership to substantiate a business model up to and including a skilled deployment of municipal procurement instruments.
- Integration of all operational elements into the emerging VPDCA design framework. The list of operational process elements is by no means original and includes feasibility assessments, business model development, performance assessment, adoption, and transfer, each of which comprises a number of sub-processes. However, their relevance to the CE process is determined by the previous stages.
3. The Civic Energy Cycle
3.1. Civic Energy as a Continuous Improvement Process (CIP)
3.2. Process Stages and Sub-Processes
3.3. Process Interaction
- The selected benefits of the initiation phase determine the suitability and the selection of the enabling factors.
- Feasibility assessments focus not only on a review of state-of-the-art technology or market trends but specifically examine how and whether the selected enablers can deliver the hoped-for benefits, drawing on the experience of related initiatives.
- The customized business model is not based on a single currency but serves to deliver the targeted range of benefits and needs to be structured accordingly.
- Management assignments focus on the processing of the enablers.
- The roll-out of deliveries relates initially to the energy services provided but also more importantly to the civic undertaking of delivering the projected benefits to the designated recipients.
- The review activities of the fourth phase build on the structure of the feasibility assessments and include self-monitoring conducted by the stakeholders of phase one.
- Adoption decisions based on the review can entail either a re-focusing of additional community needs and benefits to be served by the installed energy system or a realignment of enablers or both.
5. Conclusions and Policy Implications
Conflicts of Interest
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|VPDCA Phase||Process Stage||Sub-Processes|
|Initiation (V)||Civic Energy vision and policy assimilation|
|Community stakeholder consortium|
|Specification of targeted benefits|
|Planning (P)||Selection of enablers|
|Energy services delivery|
|Delivery of community benefits|
|Reflection and Adoption (C, A)||Assessment and optimization|
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McGovern, G.; Klenke, T. A Process Approach to Mainstreaming Civic Energy. Energies 2018, 11, 2914. https://doi.org/10.3390/en11112914
McGovern G, Klenke T. A Process Approach to Mainstreaming Civic Energy. Energies. 2018; 11(11):2914. https://doi.org/10.3390/en11112914Chicago/Turabian Style
McGovern, Gerard, and Thomas Klenke. 2018. "A Process Approach to Mainstreaming Civic Energy" Energies 11, no. 11: 2914. https://doi.org/10.3390/en11112914