RESocial Innovation

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A renewables model for social good

This citizen-owned initiative for small-scale renewable energy production installs solar PV panels in institutions in the social economy, to generate clean energy while raising revenue for the institution. It uses a social innovation model that addresses many facets of sustainability – environmental, social and economic – creating a combination of benefits that go beyond renewable energy production.

The project was led by Coopérnico, the first renewable energy cooperative in Portugal, founded by a group of citizens from various backgrounds who wanted to promote a more decentralised, democratic and sustainable energy system.

In RESocial Innovation, some of Coopérnico’s members financed the installation of 218 solar PV panels on the rooftops of two sites of the Portuguese Association for the Mentally Disabled (APPACDM, from the Portuguese name), with the help of three larger European renewable energy cooperatives. These panels are owned by Coopérnico for 15 years from installation – and at the end of the 15-year contract, the solar PV panels will be given to the institution for free.

Coopérnico sells all the electricity these panels generate to the grid at a premium tariff, thanks to a state subsidy (the feed-in-tariff). It then shares the revenue with the institution by paying it a percentage of the monthly revenue for the roof space where the panels are installed. The remaining revenue is shared between Coopérnico and its members who invested in the project.

This way, the project generates environmental benefits from producing renewable electricity, economic benefits by generating local income through the sale of clean electricity and social benefits by providing an additional source of revenue to the social welfare institution and the cooperative.

The model has now been used for five more sites owned by additional organisations, extending its benefits to new parts of the social economy.