Moving Forward on Sustainable Energy Transitions: The Smart Rural Model
Among the different aspects that promote Sustainable Development, energy is a critical concern to meet the needs of present and future generations in a global-scale and long-term vision. Going beyond the emergence of local responses such as “Nearly Zero-Energy Buildings” or “Smart Cities” models, a more comprehensive view on sustainable energy planning, which involves urban and rural areas as an energetically balanced whole, has to be promoted. Central to this approach is the concept of transition which urges to be conceived in a broader and incremental change of society as pleaded by Rob Hopkins in Transition Towns. Spatial planning is able to manage the complex relationships between environment, economy and society and can represent the driver to implement integrated approaches and adaptive strategies towards the transition from “the actual fossil fuels system” to “a future net zero fossil fuels system”. This paper presents how such questions are being addressed and developed within the field of the doctoral thesis entitled “Smart Rural: energy efficiency and renewable energies in rural areas”. The interdisciplinary research design flow and expected results that support the Smart Rural model are presented in order to debate the thesis statement : “Can an integrated planning process for energy efficiency and renewable energies in rural areas, support the “Net-Zero Energy” balance at the municipal scale?”
Keywords: Sustainable energy; transition towns; smart rural; energy efficiency; renewable energies; energy balance.