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Transforming Municipal Processes and Structures Towards the Local Energy Transition

Session leader

  • Klaus Hoppe, Director, Klaus Hoppe Consulting (Presentation)


The City and Region of Freiburg, Germany, has been known for its energy and climate protection policies since the early 1980s. Freiburg recently set a 100% renewable energy target under the guidance of Klaus Hoppe in his former role as Head of the Energy Department. Freiburg has been installing solar PV panels on existing and new buildings, as well as on a former landfill site, on school roofs, and even on the soccer stadium. The heart of the current campaign to promote rooftop solar with homeowners is the message that roofs can do much more than just cover us.

Drawing a parallel with soccer, Hoppe challenged participants to reimagine city planning like a team sport: everyone has their roles but in a complex system those roles are interconnected and teammates must play together. Like soccer, city planning is target-oriented, requires cooperation, communication, and coordination. There is an inevitable hierarchy within the team but there is also unpredictability and creativity. Hoppe spoke of the potential for city planning departments to transform its line-up, as soccer has over the years, where everyone must be able to play in various roles, not just in their specific positions. Planners must think and act in favour of a mutual target, which could be a 100% renewable strategy, for example, to which every player is committed.


In small groups, participants brainstormed project ideas they work on day-to-day and applied the soccer match framework to the idea they selected. Two groups looked at retrofitting for improved energy efficiency, one group explored community solar development, and the fourth group examined implementing 100% renewable energy in small “western” communities. The groups were asked to first reflect the status quo and identify the stakeholders, then to describe how they interact and where the challenges and opportunities are.

In the retrofit discussions participants concentrated on defining the challenge and the stakeholders. One group identified creating incentives to motivate homeowners and the education of the building industry and inspectors as the most important ways to encourage retrofits. The second group said the soccer analogy helped them realize how complex the challenge is. Specifically, they pointed to the nexus of priorities between housing affordability, seismic upgrading, and energy retrofits.

In looking at community solar through the soccer lens, this group methodically identified the components of the system (players, roles/interactions, and project processes/structures) and the outcomes (winners, losers, and goals), which they proposed to site on a closed landfill. They listed steps in the approval process, from the request for proposal through to the power purchase agreement to striking deals, but also the burden of “mowing the lawn” of a 40-acre site and mused that the “lawnmowers” (those responsible for maintaining the site) would be among the winners, while the existing electrical suppliers would count among the losers.

Figure 1: Sample worksheet from the small group discussion around community solar.

The last group explored how to implement 100% renewable energy in small towns. In addition to typical stakeholders, such as governments, First Nations, and community members, they suggested neighbouring communities that would be affected by the project. The group identified some of the elements of the system by answering:

  • What must change?
    • Financing is needed from the town council
    • Support is needed from First Nations
  • How?
    • Undertake a 2-year public engagement process
    • Goodwill
  • Who acts?
    • Organizations like the Federation of Canadian Municipalities could provide funding for dedicated staff in municipalities and facilitate the process.
    • Citizens could co-create the policy with the municipality so they feel more committed to the goal.


The soccer analogy highlighted the shifting roles of players in city planning and that this is not disruptive but transformative. Complex problems require complex interactions among the system elements and, like soccer, there are structures and hierarchies but enough freedom to cooperate in new ways. Such an approach requires courage and creativity in local governments and a willingness to try new approaches.