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French participation / Third workshop in France

The French participation in the project is progressing, step by step, remaining consistent with the aim of involving as many people as possible, ensuring that the participants of the first workshop are involved in the second one and that the third workshop is conceived as complementary to the first two, but going further, and inviting new and previous participants to join in, broadening both the subject matter and the project territory.

Thus, as part of the cohousing days, the first workshop in September 2022 was held in Le Cannet des Maures, a small town in the middle of the Var region, where the first occupants of the participatory cohousing facilities called “Bois de Brindille” are starting to live. . Largely self-constructed in ecofriendly, bio-sourced materials, wood, clay and straw the stage they are at today is the realisation of the Commons. Thus, it was quite naturally proposed that the sharing of energy be integrated into the reflection on the construction of the common premises. Two results were produced at the workshop: 1/ the observation that participatory housing projects were a good potential for the development of citizen renewable energy communities 2/ the observation that, in parallel to the question of organising shared energy production and consumption, the question of water was emerging as being inseparable and that the common ground to be built was that of water and energy resources.

The workshop that followed in December 2022, on a larger territory, that of the Gapeau valley in transition, was hosted by the GEC cooperative and brought together all the project partners in person, who, in a painful assessment, took stock of numerous failures, analysed by the reluctance of the municipalities, which had difficulty in trusting a citizen community without reference.

One of the results of the workshop was the meeting between the grouped habitat ” Bois de Brindille ” and the Citoyenne energy cooperative. The offer of a private/private partnership replaces the public/private partnership which is slow in coming, opening up a new project territory to GEC prospecting. On the one hand, Le Cannet des Maures extends the prospecting territory beyond the Gapeau valley to a radius of 40 km, and on the other hand, this first case study opens up the prospecting to private partners. Thus, the Cooperative’s discouragement at having tried 5 projects that did not succeed was followed by a new dynamic that took two directions, finding roofing potential in private homes and looking for farmers willing to offer their land to agri-voltaic projects.

The construction of the energy community in Bois de Brindille is only at its beginning, but it already enriches the practice by putting in the specifications the will to self-construct the frames of the shades and supporting structures and even to make them participative building sites and an evolutionary programming in time.  On 7 March, a meeting will bring together some twenty farmers to propose an experimental, ethical project financially supported by the VALOREM Foundation.

The new workshop that is being prepared for 24 and 25 March 2023 extends the territory even further, since it is co-produced in the neighbouring department of the Alpes Maritimes, hosted by a commune on the outskirts of Grasse, the commune of Chateauneuf. The workshop under the ambitious title of ”  Building a territory of energies  with and for citizens “ will testify to the commitment of local authorities on the subject of citizen energy communities.  ” No one is a prophet in their own country ” ; a

diversion to see what other communes are doing elsewhere can be very stimulating for the GEC, which can return with new arguments to mobilise the communes of the Vallée du Gapeau en transition territory.  As a final step, it is no longer only the Water and Energy association that is identified as the common ground where citizens must regain their power to act, but the context of Chateauneuf is that of a municipality committed to the transition in a global manner, with an energy project and a food project as its two mainstays, involving job creation, a cooperative, and a solidarity grocery shop…

Even in a country like ” the French Riviera “, fighting the social divide, giving the poorest people access to healthy, local food and housing, and working the land is possible… This is the challenge that the French partner has set itself this year, thanks to the support of the European community: to show that starting small, even if it is only by building a solar shower or a dry toilet, allows any inhabitant to learn to be in transition !