May Success Story: The COMPILE Best Practice Guide
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 May Success Story we’re not putting our focus on one particular case, but on a set of best practices collected by COMPILE, a H2020 project that is supporting the set-up of energy communities in closed or poorly connected systems. The aim is to democratise the European energy system by providing solutions for energy communities to grow and flourish. In order to reach that goal the COMPILE project created a toolkit that presents a series of reports and dashboards to help you build your energy community. With this month’s Success Story we would like to introduce you to the Best Practice Guide, which brings together experiences from the community energy movement across Europe, and thus provides you with ideas and inspiration to take action!
Setting direction, inspiring change
The report, just as our monthly success stories, is built to inspire existing energy communities in broadening their scope and considering new activities and innovative collective models to engage in energy transition projects. The examples listed in the guide may inspire other organisations and citizens to find the direction they want for themselves when trying to define their role in the energy market. Moreover, they can inspire national policy makers to put in place a national policy framework that fosters the emergence of energy communities. Finally, local authorities – including cities and municipalities – may find the examples useful and relevant to consider when making and implementing their sustainable energy and climate action plans.
Starting small, taking it slow
Before diving into already existing cases of successful community energy projects, the best practices guide lists some general tips and trends on how cooperatives tend to get up and running in the European context.
The first question you need to ask yourself when you want to embark on a cooperative adventure is ‘what is the service to your community?’ Cooperatives are created for many different reasons: to tackle climate change, to change your energy system, to create a neighborhood action group, etc. However, the primary purpose of energy communities is always to create social innovation and to engage in economic activities with non-commercial aims. That social embeddedness of energy communities is often already apparent in the origin stories of these initiatives. Many community energy stories started across a kitchen table, at the counter of a local café or in a parent-school board discussion. It’s with this strong social rooting that most of them found themselves to be able to grow and expand their activities and reach. They could transform their market by taking it slow and starting small.
However, ‘non-commercial aims’ and social engagement doesn’t mean that money and profits are of no concern for community energy projects. A piece of advice from Dirk Vansintjan, President of REScoop.eu: “Start with a small but profitable investment project. Try to find a project that will bring money to the cooperative, in order to finance staff time which Is crucial for the development of future projects.”
So, the next questions are 'how to decide on the activity or activities you want to get your community involved in and how to make those activities future proof?'
A wide scope of activities
Community energy initiatives perform a wide scope of activities across the energy sector in order to provide services or other socio-economic benefits to their members and local community. Today, we have cooperatives dealing with renewable energy generation, provision of energy efficiency services (including buildings renovations), retail supply, distribution (of both heat and electricity), storage, flexibility services, aggregation, and electro-mobility services. The best practice guide provides examples of all types of activity, energy services and citizen-led partnerships in order to inspire people to take action.
By taking a closer look at existing energy communities, the Best Practice Guide reveals that they are incredibly diverse when it comes to ownership, governance, organisational structure, scale of activities, type of activities, energy sources used, financing mix, etc. However, what these examples have in common is an immense and limitless ingenuity to cope with the (sometimes difficult) context in which they sprout, and later, try to expand. Examples of successful community energy stories cleverly taking root in different contexts are already abundant in the energy sector.
The need for climate action has never been greater and the potential for community energy across Europe is enormous. Research conducted by CE Delft in 2016 revealed that over 264 million European citizens (about half of the European population) could be producing their own energy by 2050 at home or together in energy communities. The COMPILE best practices demonstrate the importance and effectiveness of the community energy movement in tapping into this great potential.
Join the movement
These many inspiring stories of people on the ground that are taking back control of the energy system aim to encourage others to join the energy revolution too. To read about the concrete examples we referred to in a broad sense in the article check out the brand-new COMPILE toolkit!