Fontainebleau future laboratory for green innovations
par Elsa Sidawy | 06.23.11
Favoured by a historical and natural heritage that has made it famous, the city of Fontainebleau could do without thinking about its ecological conversion. But the city council wishes, on the contrary, to become an open-air laboratory to experiment innovative solutions. To support them in this virtuous approach, the ARENE (Agence Régionale de l’Environnement et des Nouvelles Energies: Regional Agency for Environment and New Energy) funded, at the end of 2009, a post-carbon strategy, the development of which has been supported by the Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations and the community of cities of Fontainebleau-Avon.
Beyond sustainability, the challenge is to “make the area more alive and to help the population stay here,” Thierry Vincent, in charge of development at the ARENE and big noise of this project, indicates. According to the Agency, this experimental and prospective approach is meant to be taken in other areas of the Ile-de-France region. Why choose this small city of 17,000 inhabitants? For the challenge, the expert says. Though the area has many assets (high-speed internet, a great variety of family gardens, geothermal power, commercial and tourist meeting point), it has several impediments such as its ageing urban structure or its historical monuments with which it will be hard to win points in terms of energy efficiency.
Accumulating experimentations in order to stand out
Levers apply to four focuses: food with the will to eventually reach self-sufficiency, construction with the renovation of the housing stock, transport with the development of a sustainable transport sector and finally local employment in order to develop nearby resources. To carry out these propositions, think-tankers first started working, among others things, on the creation of a telecommuting centre for “roughly a hundred people in the beginning”. It would be a way of encouraging the 7,000 inhabitants of Fontainebleau who take their cars every morning to go to work to choose telecommuting. As regards waste, a methanisation factory could recycle the yearly production of 30,000 tons of equine waste. Transport will be promoted too and the creation of a line with electric car and bike lending is said to be under consideration. Though this is quite a busy programme, it does not really stand out compared to the Agendas 21 put in place by so many other cities.
10 actions launched as early as 2011
As he prefers action to uncertain plans, Thierry Vincent admits that “these experimentations exist elsewhere. But in Fontainebleau, by accumulating them, we are making the city a special place.” No need therefore to worry about drawing up a calendar and a detailed development plan. Today, Thierry Vincent has nevertheless promised that about ten actions “will definitely be launched in 2011, in order to give this strategy an operational result and not wait until 2020 to achieve a post-carbon city.”
But who is paying the bill? “I launch a project after having received agreement from the city council and it is up to me to find investors and operators to make it a reality,” Thierry Vincent highlights – he is already talking about “territorial marketing” to support the carrying out of projects. In any case the latter managed to become indispensable: “the real difficulty for these cities is to be able to make innovation a reality, to go from words to action and, to do so, they need help, otherwise they cannot make it,” he claims.
• Download the post-carbon Territory Study – Pays de Fontainebleau
• Original article on Cleantech Republic
Photo credits: City of Fontainebleau
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Translated by Oona Bijasson