Contributing to the blog this week is Marine Cornelis, director and founder of Next Energy Consumer, EUSEW 2020 Digital Ambassador.
Energy communities are a very straightforward way of reconciling environmental and social objectives. Different business models and legal forms co-exist, but the majority of energy communities are set up as cooperatives, where members have voting rights. There are around 2,400 renewable energy cooperatives (REScoops) today in Europe, with over 650,000 members. Joining an energy community is a right offered by EU law, even for the most vulnerable household consumers.
Members are more than passive energy consumers: they participate actively in the decision-making process and take ownership of energy production and related strategic choices, creating more sustainable and resilient energy markets. By 2030, energy communities could own some 17% of installed wind capacity and 21% of solar. By 2050, almost half of EU households could be producing renewable energy. Shareholders bring environmental, economic and social value to their local community, rather than looking for financial profit. They implement steps to reduce their energy consumption and be more aware of their environmental footprint. REScoop Plus, a project developed under Horizon 2020, showed that members of renewable energy cooperatives save up to 30% of their energy consumption with the appropriate tools.
In practice, citizens and local energy communities are formed by households, local authorities, SMEs and in some cases also bigger companies. They cooperate in the generation, consumption, distribution, storage, supply, aggregation of energy from renewable sources, or offer demand-side management services. At the time being, Germany and Denmark have the highest number of citizen-led energy organisations. Those two countries have strong traditions of community ownership and social enterprises.
Smaller communities generally focus on renewable generation, distribution and supply activities from solar, wind or hydro sources. Still, many are starting to propose energy services related to energy efficiency or energy savings (e.g. renovation of buildings); energy storage, energy monitoring and financial services; electro-mobility such as car-sharing, car-pooling or charging stations operation and management; or even energy poverty mitigation programmes (e.g. Energie Solidaire by Enercoop, France).
Those examples illustrate that a direct involvement of citizens, proactively organised in energy communities and cooperatives are critical for the delivery of the clean energy transition to achieve Europe’s decarbonisation.
Disclaimer: This article is a contribution from a Digital Ambassador. All rights reserved.
Neither the European Commission nor any person acting on behalf of the Commission is responsible for the use that might be made of the information in the article. The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) only and should not be considered as representative of the European Commission’s official position.