The EC values the work of the Opengela project, in which Zabala Innovation supports coordination
Thanks to our experience, we helped focus the idea, build the consortium and write the proposal that was eventually funded under the European Union's Horizon 2020 framework programme
The Opengela project is funded by the Horizon 2020 programme and will continue for a further eight months, until January 2023. In this way, the pilot neighbourhoods of Otxarkoaga (Bilbao) and Txonta (Eibar) will be able to complete the refurbishment of the buildings with 460 homes, which Julen Ugalde, as an expert consultant, is grateful for because “the pilots began a little before the crisis broke out due to the COVID-19 and the subsequent confinement, which had a very big impact on the start-up of the service and limited the possibility of making the offices known to the residents of the neighbourhoods”, as he explained.
Opengela’s contribution to the EU
The European Union is at a turning point in its energy and ecological transition in the wake of the geopolitical crisis generated by the invasion of Ukraine. Now more than ever, the European Commission is determined to reduce its dependence on Russian gas and has launched a series of initiatives to this end. The recently approved RePowerEU Plan and the ‘Fit for 55’ regulatory framework (aimed at reducing emissions) are oriented in this direction, and the Commission is stressing the fundamental role that energy-saving must play in our buildings. In this sense, there is a clear preference for in-depth refurbishment projects, which involve a saving of more than 60% of energy consumption.
In the context of the dual need for decarbonisation and reduction of energy dependence, the Commission supports projects such as Opengela, which also include a social component.
During the Opengela General Assembly in March, which brought together all the consortium partners, Martin Eibl, Senior Project Advisor at CINEA, highlighted the role played by Opengela for four reasons. Firstly, the ambitious energy savings proposed by the project; secondly, the importance is given to the value chain to create local expertise and employment; thirdly, he emphasised the scalable processes and financing beyond the pilot neighbourhoods; and finally, he valued the support to vulnerable communities of homeowners.
Support to communities with vulnerable priorities and social component
Opengela is a project that was born to respond to the problem of rehabilitating residential buildings where vulnerable people live and to integrate aspects such as energy efficiency and emissions reduction. For this reason, as Ugalde says: “The focus is on aspects such as accessibility, comfort, and safety when proposing the refurbishment project and, above all, grants and financing are offered that allow all owners to access the service, even those with very limited economic resources, which results in an improvement in their quality of life and an improvement in the neighbourhoods in which they live”.
As for the social component, the person in charge of Zabala Innovation mentions that it is “a fundamental aspect” for a service such as the one offered by the project to be successful. He lists the procedure, which can be summarised as follows: Talk to the neighbours to establish a climate of trust to be able to explain clearly and simply the benefits they can obtain. It is a long process in which it is necessary to connect with the communities on an individual basis by holding meetings, presentations, etc. Julen Ugalde assures that “the most successful interventions are those that are co-designed with the neighbours themselves, putting them at the centre of the process”.
Zabala Innovation’s involvement in the Project
Zabala Innovation has supported the Basque Government’s Directorate of Territorial Planning and Urban Agenda since the initial conception of the project. Julen Ugalde assures that “our experience helped to focus the idea, build the consortium and draft the proposal that was finally funded within the European Union’s Horizon 2020 framework programme”. Zabala Innovation is a partner in Opengela, supporting the coordinator and the other participating entities in managing the project and liaising with CINEA, the executive agency responsible for this programme.