They make the Université de Lyon: meet Marie Lopez Y Laso

On The June 25, 2020

Crédits : Marie Lopez Y Laso
Crédits : Marie Lopez Y Laso

The Université de Lyon met with Marie Lopez Y Laso, an environmental geography student at the Université Panthéon-Sorbonne. She decided to round off her “Biodiversity, Landscapes and the Environment” Master’s degree by completing a participatory research internship with the Université de Lyon’s Science Shop. The future graduate is using her skills to help the ACOPREV organization, which was founded by the inhabitants of Saint-Julien-en-Quint to find a way to produce renewable energy in the Drôme region.

What is your Science Shop study about?

I am currently working with ACOPREV, an organization that focuses on addressing energy transition issues, to develop a “collective self-consumption” project. This project involves using locally produced renewable energy, which, for the moment, is mostly solar energy! The first collective self-consumption operation involved a private solar panel rooftop site in Saint-Julien-en-Quint, and accounted for 20% of the electricity consumed by 26 self-consumers. Two additional rooftop sites have now been set up in two other towns, with a total area of 250 m² and a projected annual production of 58,000 kWh. As you can see, the project is already well under way. But we now need to focus on the inhabitants of the six rural towns that are involved in the project. That’s where I come in. I am here to help answer the organization’s initial question: “how can we encourage those who live in the valley to embrace the energy sustainability process despite its technical complexity?” I believe that citizen participation is absolutely essential. Citizens should be able to express their opinions and have a say in the future of the area in which they live. Working on this issue means thinking about how we can move from a situation where energy is produced and managed entirely by the state to one based on local initiatives, which is a way to move towards a decentralization of power. It also demonstrates that a rural environment may also be a source of innovation.

How did lockdown affect your work?

My original plan had been to start by taking a step back and look at the overall picture. This would involve getting to know the area and talking with locals to gauge how they feel about the project. Do they think that ACOPREV’s initiatives are (partially) able to address the effects of climate change that they are experiencing in the valley? How do they think ACOPREV’s projects will progress? And how do they see their own role in this energy transition? Unfortunately, the lockdown made it impossible for me to meet with local residents. I was, however, able to talk to them on the phone. I spoke to people from different situations, with different jobs, of different ages, and who came to the region at different times. There are so many different kinds of people here. From people who had been born there to new residents moving from a city, from singer-songwriters to third-generation sheep farmers, as well as eco-constructors, retired artists and mushroom growers. I was pleasantly surprised at how these conversations went. The fact that we are all in the same boat, with a certain feeling of distance on the telephone, gave us a sense of intimacy. I found that people spoke quite freely under those conditions.

So would you say that, in some way, you have managed to turn these limitations into opportunities?

At first, the idea of not being able to organize meetings with the locals saddened me. But, while talking with the residents, I learned that some of them were “fed up” with meetings. Some of them were even looking for an alternative to meetings, and they started to come up with different ideas. A few of them suggested that I send a questionnaire through the post. Or why not start an online suggestion box? Lockdown has meant less physical contact, but it has also given us an opportunity to express ourselves in many different ways... all from a distance.