e:Lab - Citizen lab for energy innovations

Mobility, decentralized energy systems and participative innovation practices

Tiny House

The project focus was to find out how energy consumption in the residential sector can be reduced.

Participation in the energy transition

Together, the e:Lab community developed ideas on how concrete opportunities for citizens to participate in the energy transition could look in the future.

Objectives: Implement a real laboratory for local civic engagement in the energy transition

In the context of the energy transition, the e:Lab - Citizens' Lab for Energy Innovation - is concerned with mobility, future energy systems and collaborative innovation practices in urban spaces. It deals with and further thinks about decentralized energy supply, urban mobility and smart energy saving in Dortmund. In an open workshop, scientists work together with citizens to research what energy generation and energy saving could look like in the future. The aim of the project is to actively involve citizens in the energy technology process in order to develop solutions at the local level.

Benefits: Further develop energy innovations through participatory and local projects

Until now, politics and energy companies have determined and shaped the implementation of the energy transition. In this process, citizens were often regarded as mere energy consumers and not involved in the design and implementation process. However, the past few years have shown that this far-reaching project can only be achieved with broad support from society.

The e:Lab project sees citizens as key players in the energy transition process and actively involves them in participatory formats. The scientists and citizens pool their know-how in three project areas in order to discuss and further develop the future issues of housing, mobility and citizen participation in the context of the energy transition. The different energy topics have been dealt with in a practical and citizen-relevant way on the basis of these project focal points. The Dortmund “DEZENTRALE - Community Laboratory for Future Issues” served as the meeting place for the e:Lab project. The Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology UMSICHT set up the open workshop as a meeting place for interested citizens who wanted to learn about project topics or work directly on concrete energy technology developments and prototypes.

Project focus: Tiny House, Cargobike and Citizen Energy Council

e:Lab was designed as an open project and enabled voluntary participation by citizens through a variety of formats. In energy cafés held several times a year and in weekly energy workshops, participants were able to debate energy topics and develop and implement concrete project ideas. In order to deal with the topics in a practical way, each thematic focus is assigned a specific project that the citizens have dealt with.

Tiny House

The topic of housing plays a significant role in the energy transition. The project focus was to find out how energy consumption in the residential sector can be reduced. The participants also discussed the possibility of energy self-sufficient living based on modern energy technology. The Tiny House served as an experimental platform here and was well suited to illustrating energy generation and consumption in a small format.


The excessive use of energy and resources through car use and the resulting environmental pollution, due to the high CO2  emissions, also represented a central project focus. e:Lab took up the concept of cargo and electric cargo bikes and discussed how they can be used for urban freight transport. In numerous workshops, the participants discussed the advantages of the so-called e-cargo bike as a means of transport and learned how solar-powered electric mobility can also be achieved outside of industrial processes to reduce one's CO2 balance on a local level.

Citizens' Energy Council

The third main topic of e:Lab dealt with forms of participation of citizens in relation to the energy transition. The participants evaluated which forms of participation are suitable to embed them in a city-wide energy discourse.

In the course of the change of citizens from pure energy consumers to so-called "makers", the foundation of a “citizen energy council” has been discussed on a local level. Together, the e:Lab community developed ideas on how concrete opportunities for citizens to participate in the energy transition could look in the future.

Project result: Energy transition sustainably strengthened through citizen participation

The focal points worked on during the e:Lab project as well as the participatory event formats have led to the development of an e:Lab community in Dortmund. Thanks to e:Lab, the energy transition has become a more concrete and shapable process for citizens, who have been able to develop their own energy solutions for urban areas. The lively participation in energy workshops in Dortmund indicates a high interest in energy and citizen science topics in society. The chosen experimental platforms Tiny House and the Cargobike led to a critical reflection of the participants with the topic of energy transition and how it should be designed. Especially the media attention around the topic Tiny House and the further use of this experimental platform for new research projects shows that the process of the energy transition is positively influenced by the imagination of citizens* in the design and implementation process.

Projekt partners

  • Innogy Foundation for Energy and Society
  • wert-voll gGmbh