In its SONNET City Lab, Bristol City Council searched for ways to make use of crowdfunding - specifically a Community Municipal Bond (CMB) mechanism - as an investment activity to collectively raise capital to install energy efficiency measures in local community buildings. The Bristol municipality, working with the Bristol Energy Network, engaged building managers and technically surveyed the buildings to assess the value of the energy efficiency works that needed to be undertaken, resulting in 12 energy audits. They then surveyed participants across Bristol and building managers of the community buildings about their opinion of such an initiative. The survey was completed by 170 participants (124 online and 46 in person).
Crowdfunding, Community Municipal Bond, surveys, community buildings, energy efficiency measures
From January 2020 to October 2021
The Methodology contained several steps:
- Launch event where the SONNET project was introduced, and the rest of the meeting was spent in the breakout groups with building managers and Bristol Energy Network (BEN) members exploring the needs of the buildings and the scope of the project
- Building manager survey was developed to ascertain practical and technical information that would enable Bristol City Council (BCC) to determine which buildings may be best placed to receive a full energy audit which would then be used in their modelling of a Community Municipal Bond. It was also designed to find out what barriers to energy efficiency improvements exist for managers
- Citizen Survey was developed as the second stage of engagement around the Bristol City Lab. It aimed to establish how citizens use and view their community buildings and whether there would be an incentive for establishing a new model of council-backed community crowdfunding (i.e. a Community Municipal Bond (CMB)) in order to finance energy efficiency improvements and renewable generation projects that would help sustain community buildings and reduce their carbon emissions.
Scale(s) of the case analysed
Target audience and dimension
Domain(s) of application
Challenge addressed/ Problem-led approach
Impact to climate neutrality
The City Lab investigated the possibility of using crowdfunding - specifically a Community Municipal Bond (CMB) mechanism - to fund energy efficiency measures in community buildings. They surveyed citizens across Bristol and building managers of the community buildings about their opinion of such an initiative. They also technically surveyed the buildings to assess the value of the energy efficiency works that needed to be undertaken. The result was a business case.
The goal of the project was to work with communities to explore how community buildings could receive energy efficiency improvements within the existing funding environment.
Context & Public policy of reference
The SONNET project was started to help Bristol to meet the EU 2030 target (EU climate law, European Green Deal). Bristol was assessing the feasibility of crowdfunding as a method to raise capital for energy efficiency measures within community buildings.
Innovative approach(es) addressed
SONNET provided a very valuable tool to speak to people and find ways of making the CMB proposal acceptable to more people since the investments could have been as little as £5. This makes it incredibly valuable and inclusive, potentially attracting a wide variety of people across the city rather than a small number of people who invest more money. What made the Bristol case different from other local authorities’ projects was their intention to make sure that they are doing what citizens want and are interested in. The highlight of the project was put on the communities and their buildings.
The Bristol City Council, the Science Policy Research Unit at the University of Sussex, and BEN.
Stakeholder networks and organisational model
Citizens of Bristol
Engaged in the idea of using investment-based crowdfunding to
fund energy efficiency works in community buildings
Participated in the survey to indicate the desire for managers to reduce their building’s energy consumption
Relationships and capacity for (community) retrofit were built
Other groups who rent/hire/borrow space
Participated in the citizen survey
nteraction between participants
Political: Political commitment at the highest level in the city (Bristol City Council) to the UE Missions.
Social: citizens, building managers, community groups. Everyone was included in the process of investigating the possibility of using crowdfunding
Technical: enough technical capacities to create online surveys, online meetings, and an online platform
Key inhibiting factors
Economic: more funds to organise more events with citizens would be useful
Social: the pandemic was a big problem, having live events would be much better for the project
Drawbacks/pros/cons of the solutions (after implementation)
The objectives of citizens' perceptions have not been achieved in full: building a greater understanding of how citizens perceive energy efficiency, and the use of the community buildings was problematic due to the lack of in-depth interviews or focus groups that were originally planned for two case study buildings.
The process undergone in the project can be replicated in any city.
Although the Bristol city lab did not have immediate plans for scaling up or replicating the experiment, it did see a massive opportunity in going straight into the delivery of known solutions to make a bigger impact. The learnings gained from the city lab will be useful for energy-related activities, especially in the context of the City Leap agenda for Bristol.
The project can be viewed as a pilot - there is a lot of rich data collected (e.g. on the energy efficiency of community buildings, including recorded discussions with architects and energy specialists about how best to undertake building audits before conducting them) that can inform other activities/projects
Main positive lessons/opportunities identified
- A valuable tool to speak to people and find ways of making the CMB proposal accessible to everyone, as the investment of as little as £5, was provided.
- The tool has the potential to attract a wide variety of people across cities.
- The project helped communities to reflect on their community buildings as cohesive places where they can have a conversation about climate change.
Main failures/barriers identified
- More technical information is needed to make the CMB scheme investable.
- It was hard to work on community engagement during the pandemic.
- It would have been useful if building managers were part of the whole Bristol city lab experiment
Number of energy efficiency audits: 12
Number of buildings that responded to the survey: 12