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Empowering people to tackle the climate crisis

Photo by Sebastian Ganso

Publish Date: 31.01.2022

Category: Interdisciplinary research, Our contribution to sustainable development goals

Sustainable development goals: 7 Affordable and clean energy, 9 Industry, innovation and infrastructure, 10 Reduced inequalities, 11 Sustainable cities and communities, 12 Responsible consumption and production, 13 Climate action, 16 Peace, justice and strong institutions, 17 Partnerships for the goals (Indicators)

Ljubljana is becoming one of the five European demo sites for transforming the energy system – alongside Denmark, Portugal, Spain and the UK. The international project AURORA was launched to allow Europeans to take ownership of the climate change debate and reduce their carbon footprint.

The AURORA project (the abbreviation is derived from "Achieving a new European energy awareness") is part of the EU programme Horizon 2020, which was launched in December 2021. The project will receive a total of EUR 4.6 million in funding over the next three and a half years.

This ambitious international project proceeds from the premise that the climate crisis can only be tackled effectively if citizens are empowered to play a significantly more active role in transforming the energy sector, taking initiative in meeting the EU's ambitious goal to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions by 55% within a decade. Launched in December 2021 as part of the European Green Deal initiative, the project promotes a bottom-up approach. In contrast to various top-down strategies and political statements, such as those witnessed at the government summit in Glasgow (COP26), citizens play the key role in this project. The University of Ljubljana is one of the nine international partners involved in this EU project.

"It is people who make the difference in climate change, so that the poorest in our society can benefit”, says project coordinator Ana Belén Cristóbal Lopez from the Technical University of Madrid: “Indeed it is often the poorest in our society who stand to gain most from reducing their carbon emissions and saving money on heating, lighting and transport.”

AURORA will work with some 7,000 citizens across five locations in Denmark, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain and the UK to give them a greater say in how their energy is generated and used. These communities of "citizen scientists" will crowd-fund local photovoltaic facilities to produce a total of around 1 megawatt of renewable energy. To make the climate crisis less abstract for citizens, the project will first focus on raising awareness of the "carbon footprints" of our daily energy choices. The participants will receive tailored recommendations on how to make more informed energy decisions to reduce their emissions.

The results will be shared with others across Europe, with the goal to start a bottom-up movement for change. The project is also a political initiative for a more citizen-driven approach to tackle the climate crisis, for instance by engaging with the UN Environment Programme and European policymakers preparing for the UN Climate Change Conference in Egypt (COP27) in 2022.

Key drivers

The European Union has set itself ambitious goals to mitigate and adapt to the climate crisis: to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% within less than a decade and to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. Three quarters of these emissions are a direct result of how people produce and consume energy. The AURORA project will allow citizens to play an active role in transforming this sector by giving them the tools to achieve these goals. The project will allow citizens to become both a producer and consumer of energy ("prosumer"). It is going to foster local energy communities, powered by state-of-the-art photovoltaic technology, and thereby aims to transform the energy system to make it fairer, more transparent, and sustainable.

About the AURORA project

Designed as an innovation action, the project has an applied focus and implements its innovative solutions directly in practice: approximately 7,000 citizens across five locations in Denmark, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain and the UK will join forces to become "near-zero emission" citizens. As "citizen scientists", these communities will also crowd-fund local photovoltaic facilities to produce a total of around 1 megawatt of renewable energy. A mobile app – also to be developed as part of the project – will allow participants to monitor their own behavioural patterns of heating and cooling, transport and electricity consumption. In return, they will receive tailored advice and concrete suggestions on how they can reduce their energy consumption and costs. The AURORA project will especially engage the younger generation and empower them to become agents of change beyond the project itself. Through workshops and hands-on activities, it will encourage citizens to change their behaviours and attitudes towards energy.

Four locations in continental Europe will be established around university campuses as hubs for social innovation. A fifth hub will be established in one of England’s economically most deprived regions, where the authorities declared a state of "climate emergency" in December 2018.

The AURORA project consortium comprises nine institutions from six countries. The project is coordinated by Ana Belén Cristóbal López at the Solar Energy Institute of the Technical University (Universidad Politécnica) of Madrid. During the project's launch in Madrid, the coordinator described the ambitious goals as follows: “AURORA aims at nothing less than to help local communities democratise the governance of their energy systems. Marginalised groups will also be empowered to make more informed and thus more sustainable energy decisions.”

The University of Ljubljana's contribution to the project

The University of Ljubljana is heading the project's Work Package 3, which focuses on upgrading the existing social communities into energy communities. "Our main task is to coordinate the project partners, so they can successfully build the envisaged photovoltaic power stations, establish energy communities and attract as many members of the existing social communities as possible to them. This way individuals can begin their green transformation and through this the University of Ljubljana can help put into action and implement the European Green Deal at the local level," said Prof. Marko Topič, the Slovenian AURORA project coordinator from the University of Ljubljana's Faculty of Electrical Engineering.

*Further information on the project will be posted at You can contact the project consortium by sending an email to: .

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