Guest article by Zuzanna Zajac, Communications manager of the TANDEMS project

As the European Union continues its commitment to the clean energy transition, significant strides have been recently made towards climate neutrality. One of the ways in which the EU is aiming to achieve this goal is through investing in and supporting the establishment of energy communities (EC). In this article, we focus on one particular example of an energy community located in the central-European country of Austria, the energy cooperative “OurPower”. We had the privilege of sitting down with the managing director, Hemma Beiser, to gain valuable insights into the cooperative's mission and impact.

A collaborative approach towards sustainable energy

Energy communities (ECs) or energy cooperatives - as considered a golden standard organisational form - have become pivotal players in the European clean energy transition, embodying a collaborative approach towards sustainable energy. These organisations, driven by individuals, communities, municipalities and small- and medium enterprises, collectively own and manage renewable energy projects. Beyond harnessing wind or solar power, ECs foster a sense of unity, shared responsibility, and community collaboration. They also wield the power to influence policy, create job opportunities, and provide overarching benefits to the communities involved.

Our Power’s mission to take citizens on board in the energy transition

OurPower, founded in 2018, operates as an energy cooperative in Austria, spearheading a peer-to-peer marketplace for renewable electricity generated by its members. According to Hemma Beiser, the cooperative was born out of the "urgency to actively involve citizens in shaping the energy transition." OurPower's mission emphasizes that the energy transition is not solely about adopting new technologies but is a social transformation requiring active citizen participation.

Diverse forms of membership are offered by OurPower, starting from a minimal 100 euros investment and extending up to 20,000 euros. This differentiation in investment fees ensures that everyone, regardless of financial capacity, can contribute to this social innovation and play a role in advancing the clean energy transition.

Austria Our Power credit Our Power

Promoting community energy through EU-funded projects

Fostering a just energy transition is a shared goal among various EU-funded projects, including LifeTANDEMS, supported by the EU's Life Programme. This project involves partners from Austria, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Bulgaria, aiming to accelerate the energy transition by promoting collaboration between municipalities and energy cooperatives. Through pilot projects, workshops, publications, and knowledge-sharing, LifeTANDEMS actively engages citizens in the process of achieving climate neutrality.

For more information, visit the TANDEMS website.


The challenges ahead of us

Achieving a truly just energy transition requires overcoming challenges related to citizen awareness and participation. Many individuals still lack comprehensive knowledge about energy and specifically energy sharing, hindering their involvement with energy cooperatives like OurPower. Overcoming this knowledge gap is crucial for the expansion of ECs and ensuring that the benefits of the energy transition are accessible to all. An inclusive and just transition is not just an environmental imperative but a holistic process where every citizen has the opportunity to participate and, most importantly, profit from.