Stakeholder engagement activities and partnership structures between supply and demand side actors proved to be very effective within each of the pilot projects for improving communication and building trust at all levels – from project specific partnerships to wider stakeholder engagement activities and partnerships developed at the local, regional and national levels.
Creating a partnership structure brings together a wide range of expertise, strengthening the insight of all parties and improving the ability for problem solving – particularly with respect to changes in policy when considering national partnerships. Vital to the success of the pilots was the fact that at the local and project level new partnerships were established and these ensured that all stakeholders were appropriately involved in the development and successful delivery of the pilot activities.
Partnerships at the national level are also important as demonstrated by the Italian consortium ‘Tavoli di Lavoro 4E’ established within the framework of the Italian REQUEST pilot project. And the demand for such a partnership in Italy was demonstrated by the fact that within a year the network almost doubled in size, with 32 voluntary organisations participating by June 2012. The stakeholder engagement and networking opportunities created facilitated the development of strategies and common activities to accelerate the move towards achievement of energy efficiency targets and improving the implementation of standards and policies in Italy.
Face to face advice was found to be the most effective way to engage and advise homeowners. The nature of face to face advice inspires confidence for the homeowner to act - they are provided with tailored information and are able to ask questions relating to their own personal circumstances, meaning any doubts they have can be allayed. Vital to this is the need for the advice service to be trusted by the homeowner. The independent nature or reputation of the various REQUEST partner organisations meant that this was something we were able to ensure within the REQUEST pilot projects that addressed actual renovations.
However, whilst a very effective way of engaging householders, it is acknowledged that face to face advice is expensive. It may not be feasible for energy agencies or governments who are facing financial constraints, to have trained advisors visiting people in their homes. The REQUEST pilot projects demonstrated that the supply chain can be engaged and empowered to provide this face to face advice, as long as the advice they provide is independent and impartial. This can be achieved if the advice provided by the supply chain is shown to be supported by and / or backed by a trusted organisation. In the REQUEST pilots this backing / support manifested itself in a variety of forms including: training on energy efficiency concepts; independently verified information that could be shown to the homeowner and signposting to recommended installers by the independent organisation.