Citizen-led renovation: the backbone of a local energy transition
Energy cooperatives across Europe are increasingly adopting citizen-led renovation (CLR) as a key strategy for driving local energy transitions. REScoop.eu, the European federation of citizen energy cooperatives, has been actively supporting CLR initiatives through various projects. During our successful Spring Gathering in Athens last month, the CLR workshop attracted enthusiastic participation from around 40 representatives of energy cooperatives eager to learn and implement CLR services in their local communities.
Defining CLR and its common characteristics
Citizen-led renovation, which connects local development, circular economy principles, and the longevity of the energy system transition plays a significant role in the energy transition. Rescoop.eu has developed a clear definition of CLR, which encompasses a range of renovation and energy efficiency activities, including energy audits, renovation planning, financing and delivery. While specific services may vary among cooperatives, they share common characteristics:
- Citizen involvement in the renovation process and governance of the initiative.
- Energy cooperatives acting as trusted partners.
- Support for the development of local businesses and skills.
- Adaptation of solutions to local conditions.
Fostering community-driven renovation
Some cooperatives focus on gathering data and sharing information about subsidies, while others provide assistance in the planning process and liaising with local contractors. Some go even further by offering comprehensive renovation services from start to finish. Regardless of the scope, all these initiatives prioritize local citizens, local contractors, and the overall well-being of the community, fostering a sense of care and solidarity. This community-driven approach can create a wave of renovations in one area, generating long-lasting links between local energy transitions, circular economy practices, and overall local development.
Addressing energy poverty and enhancing community well-being
Energy cooperatives play a vital role in making CLR accessible to those in need, particularly for families living in older or poorly constructed homes facing energy poverty. As trusted partners, cooperatives offer services that address renovations at more affordable prices and streamline funds and subsidies to where they are most needed. By incorporating renovations alongside renewable energy projects, such as rooftop photovoltaic installations, energy cooperatives contribute to the success and effectiveness of these initiatives. Energy Communities Tipperary Cooperative (ECTC) is one of the many inspiring examples that have helped prevent energy poverty in their region.
Financial capacity and advocacy
Because of its unique and value-driven nature, CLR services require substantial financial capacity. REScoop.eu advocates for streamlining existing recovery and resilience funds and subsidies to support energy communities. Our ongoing research - featured through our financing tracker - tracks how 19 EU Member States leverage public funds to support energy communities, including the funding possibilities for development of CLR services.
Empowering energy cooperatives through collaboration
REScoop.eu has established a working group for our members dedicated to citizen-led renovation activities, bringing together over 50 representatives from energy cooperatives across Europe. The group – who is meeting on a monthly base – serves as a hub for exchanging knowledge, discussing CLR matters, and staying updated on emerging services, technologies, policy updates, and legal frameworks.
While the glamour of constructing wind parks or solar power plants may overshadow the seemingly less “sexy” nature of citizen-led renovation, it is important to recognize the value of collective retrofitting and renovations carried out with solidarity and community involvement. CLR lays the literal foundations needed to secure a long-term local energy transition. By prioritizing energy efficiency and empowering citizens, energy cooperatives from REScoop.eu are at the forefront of driving positive change and building sustainable communities.