Let there be light: and there was light – as all stared at the building facade of the “Centre for the Meeting of Cultures” flashing with a bright AREA 21 logo during a warm September night.

On 17-18 September 2018 the AREA 21 project partners gathered in Lublin for two days of workshops, lectures and fruitful discussions. Even absentees were “in touch” during teleconferences so that all partners could present their ideas.

The meeting’s focus was to showcase the active and engaged diverse citizens’ initiatives, local activism for urban improvements and broad public consultations that are taking place in the city. Selected examples of participatory processes, such as the City of Lublin’s “Civic Budget” initiative, the “Citizens’ Panel” and the “Next-Door” NGO activities provided all participants inspiration for the development of energy management plans and strategies, using social participation. Citizen participation is key to successful Smart City Areas as they need energy not only from power plants, but also from ideas and efforts of people, which cooperate to accomplish the efficient energy vision.

To not only “talk the talk”, but also to “walk the walk”, all partners were introduced to Wieniawa District. This is an area perceived as the “Heart of Lublin”, where history meets present times and social energy is used, and not saved.

The meeting was also an opportunity to sum up the status quo and progress of project implementation and to raise key issues related to energy efficiency planning in Baltic Sea Region cities. A focus in the discussions was placed on understanding different ways of stakeholder engagement. In preparation for local workshops, the partners exchanged experience and good practices on how to invite, communicate with and integrate representatives of different public and private entities on a district level.

A presentation of innovative ICT-based tools for participatory energy planning further provided an enriching sharing of ideas. The overview highlighted how technological knowledge can significantly assist with raising awareness in saving energy. Specifically, dispelling questions about positive and negative aspects of smart metering implementation and how people will react and interact with devices.

Every partner meeting is a milestone for the project itself and for all partners involved. Baltic Sea Region cities’ representatives once again made a joint effort, in which time and energy were resourcefully used.