The Local Action Group Mezilesí (LAG Mezilesí) has been founded in 2005 with the aim to support environmental, economic and social development of the Mezilesí region. The LAG represents the local stakeholders from public, non-governmental and business sectors and also the residents in the regions. The LAG is based on the principle of equality of votes of each member. Through mapping of the region and analysis of needs of the stakeholders the LAG creates the community-led local development strategy. The LAG also helps the local subjects with the preparation of projects financed by the EU programmes.
The LAG supports the local stakeholders through the following actions:
- cooperation with local governments, business and non-profit entities, networking;
- implementation of the Strategy of the Community-led Local Development);
- provision mentoring, assistance and advisory services;
- providing relevant information,
- creating regional analyses;
- organization of awareness raising campaigns in line with the objectives of the organisation;
- participation in negotiations with regional authorities;
- educational activities.
The objectives of the LAG:
- high quality of living in the region;
- community-led development of the region;
- raised awareness about the national and European funding opportunities among the stakeholders;
- the competitiveness of the local products and services;
- preservation of the natural and cultural resources of the region;
- support of the rural tourism.
As the region of Mezilesí is a rural region, the members of the LAG are mostly small municipalities with about 500 citizens. The biggest town in the LAG is Poděbrady, which has a spa town with 14 000 inhabitants.
The most important topics for the LAG Mezilesí are:
- energy efficiency and energetic self-sufficiency;
- waste management;
- green energy;
- sustainable development of rural areas;
- transfer of know-how in these areas.
The heart of the LAG is the municipality Kněžice, which has since 2005 stand in the centre of the activities of the LAG. Kněžice is the first energy-independent town in the production of heat and electricity in the Czech Republic which has in the past implemented a huge project called Energetically self-sufficient municipality Kněžice. The concept included ecological and economical aspects and its implementation has been a huge success. A biogas plant has been built and the waste material (including agricultural wastes, waste from the households and also the wastewater) is transformed into biogas creating a closed circle of energy that generates electricity for sale to the public and heat energy for local consumption of the town inhabitants. This system is a perfect best practice example for other cities, that are interested in the sustainable energy and waste concepts. The investments will pay off in 15 years.
The LAG Mezilesí builds on the experience of the municipality Kněžice and also on the experience of other members. However, the know-how of Kněžice is the biggest added value in different projects. The LAG Mezilesí can share this knowledge, but at the same time the LAG and its members are also open to foreign best practice examples that they can use to expand and widen their strategies. Kněžice is now planning to expand the system with dry fermentation in order to use biodegradable wastes containing sand, stones, and other particles that find no use in the existing wet part, they are also interested in waste management innovation and other topics.
Kněžice is very proud of the successful project and therefore has already presented it to many partners in Europe, which could learn from the mistakes that Kněžice had made because the system has been new to them. Recommendable is also a study visit to the facility (Kněžice organizes them for universities and foreign visitors).
The benefits of the Kněžice Bioenergy Centre have triggered an energy-saving attitude associated with reducing greenhouse gas emissions in neighbouring towns. Mayors of all the five towns that are members of the Local Action Group (LAG) Mezilesí, have agreed to sign the European Covenant of Mayors, which entails the submission of a Sustainable Energy Action Plan (SEAP) within one year, with the view to cutting carbon dioxide emissions in their territory by more than 20% by 2020, while attaining the same percentage with energy savings and renewable energy sources. The municipalities in the LAG are now joining a new project “Towards 100% RES rural communities”.
Kněžice is also co-founding a Czech club of towns headed toward energetic self-sufficiency. In spring 2014 the representatives of Kněžice had presented their Bioenergy Centre in the European Parliament in front of the world leaders and Kněžice has also received the European Energy Award as one of the first projects in the central Europe.