July success story: the beginning of community energy in Romania
Community energy is key to action on the climate crisis. It can empower people, boost local economies, and reinvigorate communities. Community-led initiatives play an important part in the transition towards a 100% renewable and just energy future. Success stories of community energy projects can be found all over Europe. At REScoop.eu we want to highlight these stories, in order to further accelerate the movement towards a cleaner and democratic system.
This month we are travelling to Romania to talk with Cooperativa de Energie, the first energy cooperative established in the country. Thanks to the cooperation with Som Energia they started their activities as energy supplier last month.
The first energy cooperative of the country
In October 2019, a group of 15 activists and professionals from different fields decided to create the first renewable energy cooperative of Romania: Cooperativa de Energie. Their motivation was to change the energy market in the country, to bring the consumer to its centre, and to unleash the power of community to produce renewable energy.
Their beginning was not easy because the Romanian legislation on cooperatives was created in 2005 and it is not suitable for the creation of energy cooperatives. Moreover, the cooperative tradition in the country is very scarce and an important part of the population finds a parallelism between current collective production models and bad experiences during the country´s communist past, which makes them reluctant to the idea of cooperatives. Despite the obstacles, they managed to create the cooperative and today they are with 650 members, with the expectation of reaching around 1.000 by the end of this year.
Cooperative cooperation between Spain and Romania
Cooperativa de Energie members decided that the fastest and safest way to start supplying renewable energy was to buy an existing supplier. This would avoid wasting time and money in the first steps of the growth process. However, it requires a big initial investment.
Gijsbert Huijink, one of the founders of Cooperativa de Energie and also a founder of the Spanish cooperative Som Energia, explains how they approached this challenge and how the cooperation among cooperatives made it possible:
"For purchasing the energy retailer we needed 400.000 euros. We anticipated that it would take too much time to get that money from our members, so we asked Som Energia for help and they provided a bridge loan of 100.000€ for one year. This gives us time to refinance via our members without the deadline pressure of signing the deal."
Working together for energy democracy in Europe
Som Energia and its support to renewable energy projects from other cooperatives across borders have become key for the development of community energy in Romania. This is not the first story of financial cooperation among cooperatives from different countries. For example, the Belgian cooperative Ecopower provided the bank guarantee that the French cooperative Enercoop needed to participate in a call for tenders in 2008.
Cooperativa de Energie raised the remaining 300.000€ among its members in the form of a loan. Members who subscribed for a loan for a period of one year will receive an interest rate of 3,7% per annum, and those who chose a loan for a period of five years will receive 5,2% per annum.
In the next months, when they will have more members, Cooperativa de Energie will organise a new crowdfunding action to raise money to pay Som Energia back, Gijsbert announces.
Supplier and future producer
Now that the purchase of the energy supplier has been completed, Cooperative de Energie has become the first renewable energy supplier in the country in the form of a cooperative – hopefully the first one of many! They supply energy with green certificates to the 140 clients that the company they bought already had and they expect to launch commercial offers for new clients (members and non-members) soon.
In the future Cooperative de Energie hopes to develop their own renewable energy production projects to cover all consumption because they think that you can´t really be energetically independent if you don´t produce your own renewable energy.
Victor Lancu, founding member and president of the board of Cooperativa de Energie explains the cooperatives vision for the future
"Our main objective is to facilitate in our country the energy transition to a market covered 100% with energy from renewable sources, in which citizens play an active role."