CAN SME final conference in Liège

Liège, Belgium

1 March 2023


CAN SME, the capitalisation phase of the Interreg NWE project Climate Active Neighbourhoods (CAN), will come to an end in June 2023. Following the successful implementation of innovative activation approaches for energy retrofits in Northwest European neighbourhoods in CAN, CAN SME focusses on engaging small and medium-sized enterprises for energy retrofit and sustainable practices. Since 2021, Climate Alliance, Brest metropole (FR), the cities of Worms (DE) and Liège (BE) as well as the South East Energy Agency (IRE) worked jointly to develop and test new approaches.

The final conference of CAN SME that took place on 1st March 2023 in Liège was an ideal moment to share, discuss and put into context the achievements of the project partners. The main focus of the conference was organised in two Table Talks discussing 1/ how public authorities support SMEs in their just and sustainable transition and 2/ the appropriate professional support to small businesses. Besides the four project partners participating in the capitalisation phase, the city of Arnhem and local partners of the city of Liège shared their experiences as panellist.

The Table Talks 1 “How can public authorities support SMEs in their just and sustainable transition?” emphasized the need of a holistic approach in the activities of local authorities. A sustainable and just transition concerns many sectors such as mobility, food systems, and the fight of inequalities. That is why it is central to involve people at different levels, to empower them to take action in their work environment as well as in their private life. Brest metropole paid special attention to raise awareness on energy poverty issues. In doing so, the city highlighted the close links between fighting the climate crisis and tackling social inequalities, because vulnerable communities are often doubly affected. Anne Joffre (Brest métropole) warned against the use of guilt-tripping rhetoric in time of crisis. Local authorities should listen to the specific needs of the inhabitants. Beyond the severe financial difficulties that the current energy crisis may have triggered, it has also brought reductions in energy consumption to the forefront.

For Ms Fraipont (elected representative of the city of Liège) the role of local authorities is to be a facilitator and to accompany the transition processes beyond the usual circles of conviction. Adapted and simplified communication is important to motivate SMEs to invest in a long-term perspective. Well-established local actors such as business associations, chambers or legal experts for SMEs must be used as leverage.

The Table Talks 2: “Choose the right incentives for carbon mitigation” addressed the development of strategies to support small businesses in Belgium, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands. In CAN SME, project partners offered advice for energy audits to SMEs at no or low costs, leading to a list of recommended measures and available subsidies. Partly simple quick measures were installed as small triggers to motivate the SMEs to do more on their own. One of the best arguments to motivate SMEs to do an audit is to save time and money (via loans, subsidies, waste and energy saving, circularity, as well as already selected auditors teams). SMEs are a quite broad target group, which requires flexible advice according to the specific needs of the activity sectors.

The follow-up after the energy audits are crucial, so Alexandra Hamilton (engineer at the South East Energy Agency), as well as communicating about understandable proved benefits. The calculation of carbon footprints is a good way to illustrate current energy consumption and reduction’s opportunities. In the same vein, Nicolas Schils (low-carbon referent in Liège) highlighted the importance of raising awareness on energy bills. For him, it is logical that SMEs should already taking long-term decisions, as national and European environmental regulations will become increasingly restrictive in terms of climate protection. It is time to act!

Do you want to learn more about the partners’ activities? The presentations of the introductive session and Table Talks are available below.

Copyrights: Ville de Liège

Share this

Tweet Share