Supporting local energy transition in urban districts: The case of GO2Zero, a serious role playing game

Geertje Bekebrede, Ellen van Bueren

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The depletion of fossil sources for our energy system requires new ways and new sources to fulfil our energy demand. But more important these fossil sources have a large influence on the CO2 emission. Other sources than fossil ones (wind, sun, biomass) and technologies (wind turbines, solar cells, biomass combustion) are available and need to be implemented. A transition towards a more sustainable energy system is necessary. This requires not only the use of renewable sources but requires a more holistic approach that addresses cost savings, energy efficiency and institutional innovation as well. In many cities, there is not such a clear agenda and commitment to contribute to the renewable energy transition by adopting particular technologies. Questions of authority, allocation of costs and benefits (including split incentives), scale (concerning the appropriate geographical and administrative level to apply certain technologies), ownership, renewables and technologies (both sources and technologies can differ with regards to availability, costs and benefits, lock-in etc.) can lead to different transition paths. Consequently, the current transition process is scattered. Several stakeholders see the urgency of a more sustainable energy system. However, they act alone and their actions and implementations are limited to what they individually can do. If these actions are more in collaboration or aligned, it is expected that better results in terms of effectiveness are achieved against lower costs. Then, the questions arise, who needs to take the lead in this process, which stakeholders need to be involved and what will their role become? Do municipalities or other public organisations need to take the lead or can citizens cooperate and start their local initiative? And what is the impact (in CO2 reduction, sustainability, costs) of different approaches towards a transition to a sustainable district? This paper presents the serious multi-player tabletop game GO2Zero about a transition process to a sustainable city district. In the scope of half a day, about twenty participants (citizens, from local energy related organisation and public institutes) play a role of a local authority, a housing corporation, a tenant, a homeowner, a local sustainable energy supplier, a grid operator, a local renewable energy supplier or a contractor offering retrofitting measures and technologies. Their collaborative objective is to bring the CO2 production in the district back to zero, to reduce the energy consumption with 50% and to produce local sustainable energy. At the same time, the participants have to reach their personal objectives, like profit, energy label or stability of the grid. The participants start with a phase where they can decide upon their strategy, focussing on production or reduction of energy, working alone or together etc. After the strategy, participants have to decide if and which retrofitting investments they will make, in three consecutive rounds, each representing several years. They can choose from a number of retrofitting measures, and have to get an understanding of the pros and cons of each. After playing the game, the participants have more insight in the different opportunities for the transition, the effect of different retrofitting strategies and the dynamics of the institutionally fragmented decision-making context.The paper will report on the experiences of sessions played with local stakeholders involved in energy transition in the cities of Dubrovnik, Amsterdam and Delft. Based on preliminary results, we conclude that the game give insights in the consequences of different personal strategies (as owner work towards going off grid) for the performance on district level (business case for a heat network). Further, the sessions gave a lively discussion about the legal system as well as how to organize this process in their local situation.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 4 Apr 2017
EventSocial innovation and the energy transition - Delft, Netherlands
Duration: 3 Apr 20174 Apr 2017


ConferenceSocial innovation and the energy transition
Internet address


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