March Success Story: the city and its citizens – brewing a renewable and just energy future
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.
For our second success story we travel to the French city of Strasbourg, where Brasseurs d’énergie (‘Energy Brewers’ in English) tells an inspiring story about how cities and citizens can work together to make the energy transition a broad-based and widely supported movement towards a sustainable future.
A common effort towards a mutual goal
Many big cities are leading the way towards climate neutrality. Greater Strasbourg (consisting of the City of Strasbourg and the Eurométropole) is one of them. It set itself and its 500.000 citizens on a two-step energy journey: by 2030 the area’s energy system needs to be 40% renewable as to achieve the ultimate goal of a 100% renewable energy system by 2050.
Since this transition will have a profound impact on both the city and its citizens, the administration realised that this mission could not be accomplished without fully engaging the city’s communities.
As a result, there was a strong political commitment to develop community energy schemes from within the city’s administration itself. Gerard Pol Gili, head of the renewables department of Strasbourg Metropolitan area, further clarifies why this was the case:
“On the one hand, community renewable energy projects build new relationships between citizens and their local governments. By democratising the energy sector, capacity building increases on both sides. It empowers citizens as they become active stakeholders within the local energy transition. On the other hand, compared to traditional photovoltaic projects, community projects have a higher impact on local economies as they mobilise local savings, generate local profits and create local jobs.”
Community energy projects create a strong added value on both sides of the political wire, that much was clear for Strasbourg’s city administrators.
The city and its citizens working together
And so the journey began. In the summer of 2019, the city set the process in motion of finding stakeholders and gathering motivated citizens by organising multiple public gatherings and workshops. The idea was to create a core team that would kickstart a project that could make the transition happen. After some 18 months of extensive meetings, Brasseurs d’énergie saw the light of day in 2020. Today, the cooperative aims to evolve into a federation, connecting different projects that develop renewable energy in the area, provide citizens with another way to invest their savings and work with local stakeholders.
A mutual learning process
Today, the protagonists in Strasbourg’s energy transition story are the City, the Eurométropole and the cooperative “Brasseurs d’énergie”. The city provides roof space for solar panels and assists in legal and administrative issues, whereas the Eurométropole is one of the shareholders of the cooperative and helps municipalities within the area to create local energy communities that can pool resources through Brasseurs d’énergie. Jacqui, one of the cooperative members or ‘brewers’, explains in the Energy Cities’ City Stories podcast that “work can be done much more fluently because the partnership between the city and its citizens was strong from the beginning. At the same time, however, it is a mutual learning process because working together with citizens in the field of energy is as much uncharted territory for the city’s administration as it is for the citizens themselves.”
Brewing a sustainable future
After jumping the inevitable hurdles that come with every learning process and starting a brand new company, Brasseurs d’énergie is now ready to get things going. The first municipal roof for a community energy project will be tendered later this year. The goal is to have three projects initiated within the next year. Having public roofs made available by the city proved to be crucial to jumpstart the whole project. Therefore, the goal of Brasseurs d’énergie is to teach small municipalities how to tender and propose these roofs themselves, thus making inhabitants of Greater Strasbourg the owners of and actors within their own energy transition story. Through Brasseurs d’énergie, the initiators want to ensure that the transition takes place in a democratic manner and that different actors find each other in creating and managing the city’s future energy system.
Energy Cities (2020). City Stories: the Podcast by Energy Cities. Episode with Jacqui Cullen and Gerard Pol Gili about Strasburg's first energy community. Retrieved March 12 via soundcloud.com/energy-cities/episode-strasburgs-first-energy-community
European Commission (2020). 18th European Week of Regions and Cities. Presentation Strasbourg. Retrieved March 15th, 2021 via ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/rest/cms/upload/22102020_092835_presentation_strasbourg.pdf