SmartEnCity Worst Practices & Lessons Learned

The journey to becoming a Smart Zero Carbon City is not an easy one. Therefore, the SmartEnCity Lighthouse and Follower Cities also made some negative experiences that they would like to share so that others can learn from them and avoid making the same mistakes in the future.

Worst Practices in Sonderborg

Topic: Monitoring
Worst Practice: "The dataloggers that were installed within our retrofitted buildings to measure heat and electricity consumption had to be replaced during the monitoring period because of a new supplier (from another country)."
Advice: "You need to tightly coordinate the installation process of your monitoring equipment to avoid problems later on."

Topic: Citizen Engagement
Worst Practice: “An important energy-saving measure for our retrofitted buildings could not be approved in time due to the schedule of the annual tenants meeting, which is usually a set date once per year.”
Advice: “You need to be aware of specific timing and procedures for your stakeholder’s decision-making processes and promote/influence the process in due time. At those meetings, you need to be well-prepared, with strong and convincing arguments.”

Topic: Technology Readiness Level (TRL)
Worst Practice: “Our initial plan was to implement a line of electric buses, but due to high costs of establishing the charging infrastructure and the bus battery technology still being immature at the time, a different solution (in this case, biogas buses) had to be chosen.” 
Advice: “You need to collect all the important information about planned activities (e.g. regarding TRLs) beforehand to avoid potential obstacles later on.”

Topic: Network for replication
Worst Practice: "Reaching out to individual cities turned out to be unsuccessful as they do not have the capacity to implement new solutions without technical assistance and know-how coming from comparable Lighthouse Cities or frontrunner cities within their country."
Advice: "You need to set up a national support system of national smart cities and experts to further develop and implement activities in interested cities."

Worst Practices in Tartu

Topic: Involvement of small and medium enterprises (SMEs)
Worst Practice: “We included various SMEs as full partners in the project intending to further exploit their innovations in the future. However, SMEs have tight budgets and they very much depend on external resources. Because of that, a continuation of their developed solutions was not possible.”
Advice: “You need to discuss the needs and the plans of your partnering SMEs beforehand to avoid conflicting expectations. Consider engaging them as subcontractors instead of as full partners if you are uncertain about the situation.”

Topic: Budget planning
Worst Practice: “The budget planned for the development and installation of a new smart home system turned out to be much too low due to rising costs of hardware and software products. Therefore, several add-on functionalities could not be realised due to a lack of budget, and consequently, development was delayed.”
Advice: “Make sure that your budget planned during the proposal phase is realistic and that it takes into account cost increases, possible delays as well as inflation costs.”

Lessons learned in Tartu:

Topic: building retrofitting
In case of renovation process it the prior in depth planning by owners (apartment association, inhabitants) in cooperation with technical consultants and technical designers becomes increasingly important.

Topic: gas buses
In case of gas busses it is very important to have the necessary fueling infrastructure in place. It is more complex and time-consuming to build gas filling stations than filling stations for liquid fuels. The necessary requirements must be reflected in the procurement document.

Topic:bike sharing
The phase of active implementation of the Tartu Smart bike share lasted about 2 years. Based on our experience, we also recommend those cities who plan to create a bike share system to take a time for at least 2-3 years. Planning of locations for bicycle parking stations alone and building their bases and electrical connections takes at least 1.5-2 years. It is a long-term process, but thorough preparatory work will also ensure success later.

Topic: smart city platform: 

  • Be careful with detailed long term plans , the situation for example on the market) surely changes. Flexibility is highly needed , be ready for it.
  • Do not stick to initially proposed activities, if the situation changes and the activities lose their importance or the putting into practice becomes a real headache and the outcome suffers because of it.
  • Choice and sustainability of partners , specially SMEs. Be aware of risks.
  • Early stage engagement is highly important and paves the way to success.
  • Involve decision makers from the beginning to keep the project smoothly running.
  • If you implement innovative solutions which are not common on the market, then you need to devote resources and control the process as much as possible for example technical designing of retrofitting , installation of smart home system hand in hand with construction works etc. 

Worst Practices in Vitoria-Gasteiz

Topic: Tendering process
Worst Practice: "We started a tendering process for our retrofitting works but failed to target it to our intended audience, namely small and medium sized enterprises. Therefore, we received very few, mostly invalid applications."
Advice: "You need to keep in mind who you want to target with your tendering process and how you can reach them best, for example, with the help of explanatory workshops or direct communication channels."

Topic: Citizen Engagement
Worst Practice: “At first, we had an information office located outside our demo site. However, this did not work in reaching out to or engaging with our citizens.”
Advice: “Location is key. You need to make your information activities happen directly in your demo district. For example, place an information office at the heart of the demo area if you want to engage the people living there.”

Topic: Citizen Engagement
Worst Practice: “A lack of retrofitted sample buildings in the early stages of the project made it difficult for us to explain its advantages and benefits to the residents. This complicated citizen engagement and the successful adhesions for the project.”
Advice: “Make sure you have a few real-life examples for demonstration purposes in the early stages of the project to convince your citizens: create a demo within the demo and use it to “sell” your project!”

Lessons Learned in Vitoria-Gasteiz

  • "The districts with greater needs may not be the easiest ones or even not willing to participate" 
  • "Location is key for citizen engagement activities"
  • "Keep close to the Citizens!"
  • "Engage citizens our from the project boundaries"
  • Topic new biomass district heating: "Local biomass will keep you away from issues with 3rd countries"
  • Topic smart mobility: "If you put the means, people will respond"
  • Topic communication: "Replication matters: spread the word"
  • "Despite main works have finished, communication must remain til the and of the project (and beyond)"
  • "Empowered citizens, efficient dwellings"
  • "District actuation, city effect"

Worst Practices in Lecce (Follower City)

Topic: Citizen Engagement
Worst practice: “The process for the SmartEnCity Integrated Energy Planning foresees the involvement of different stakeholders. When Lecce published the invitation for a respective workshop, many participants (companies, ESCOs, universities, municipal employees, associations, etc.) confirmed their availability. However, citizens were not involved.”
Advice: “From the very beginning, you need to create a dedicated contact channel with your citizens, for example, through associations. Citizens may not be technical experts, but it is important to include their point of view, considering that a lot of the actions are related and in connection with their daily life.”

Topic: Network replicability
Worst practice: “One of the project’s objectives is to promote the replicability of the SmartEnCity Integrated Energy Planning process at national level. Therefore, a group of ten Italian cities has been identified to observe the process and to get inspired. However, these cities are not able to replicate the activities on their own due to a lack of expertise and funds.”
Advice: “From the beginning of the project, you need to build up a steering committee to better engage network cities in this replication process, supporting national coordinators in exploiting all the activities related to the topic of Smart Cities.”

Worst Practices in Asenovgrad (Follower City)

Topic: Citizen Engagement
Worst Practice: “We planned a public meeting with citizens to discuss the financing of several improvements to the urban environment of their neighbourhood, but only very few citizens participated.”
Advice: “It is better to include citizens already at the design stage of planned implementations and not only when it comes to construction or financing.” 

Topic: Quality of construction works
Worst Practice: “The company that carried out the construction and installation works at a neighbourhood delivered bad quality, took longer than planned and did not pay attention to the needs of the people living in that area.”
Advice: “You need to have constant control over your contractors, monitoring their quality and progress as well as the effects on your residents. Otherwise, it can reflect badly on your municipality and prevent citizens from agreeing to future renovations.” 

Topic: Citizen Engagement
Worst Practice: "To present the planned energy projects to the local citizens, a public consultation workshop was organised. However, only businesses and municipal authorities participated, but no citizens."
Advice: "You need a more playful approach mixed with learning possibilities to engage citizens. Or think about an online event instead of a physical one, which is more anonymous and might therefore reduce the barrier for participation. "