Throwback to REScoop.eu's Annual General Meeting 2021
From the 22nd until the 24th of April energy communities across Europe gathered virtually to discuss the past community energy year while looking ahead to what is to come. The first two days of our Annual General Meeting were packed with talks, workshops and discussions ranging from financing and advocacy to building your community, empowering vulnerable communities and more. The third and last day was dedicated to the General Assembly, reviewing the Federation’s work of 2020 and voting on a new Board of Directors. Three days of meeting, learning and sharing… we’re already looking forward to next year!
REScoop.eu’s Annual General Meeting was officially kicked-off by our vice-president Maëlle Guillou and Irish Minister of Environment Eamon Ryan, reflecting on the progress already made, but also looking ahead to the challenges that still await us.
And where better to face those challenges than in the Federation’s working groups? In two parallel sessions, we immersed ourselves in cooperative financing and the advocacy work of the federation. Both sessions brought together a very dynamic group of participants.
The advocacy work of the federation
In the advocacy session REScoop.eu members from all over Europe exchanged ideas over their national policy asks in the short and long term, shared their plans for the implementation of the EU Directives at national level and submitted propositions on what the Federation can do at national and EU level to support them. As we are facing a transition from the transposition to the implementation phase of the EU Clean Energy for all Europeans Package, the policy spectrum of the Federation is expanding and some of our policy concerns/priorities are being diversified. This need for a forward looking policy orientation was addressed in the Advocacy AGM session. We now have to put these policy next steps into practice.
Financing mechanisms for REScoops
After an introduction to the European cooperative financing mechanism REScoop MECISE, and the efforts of our member Union Renovables around the NextGenerationEU fund, the financing session dove into a conversation about how to further develop a financing mechanism that could help take energy cooperatives to the next level. Karel Derveaux, one of the founding fathers of REScoop MECISE, argued that the time is now to mobilise our network of energy cooperatives “and to look into EU funding programmes that can unlock the energy revolution”. The session ended with some concrete next steps.
Smart Home Solutions
After a lunch break, we continued with the working group-themed sessions. During the smart home solution session, the REScoopVPP partners shared with other REScoops their ambition to create the most advanced community-driven smart building ecosystem for energy communities. With individual and collective self-consumption, smart supply or aggregation tools, energy cooperatives are looking forward to taking the next step in decentralising the energy system and accelerating the spread of renewables. However, many uncertainties remain e.g. on technology standards or market design. REScoop.eu will continue to support REScoopVPP, using open tools tailored by cooperatives for cooperatives.
Citizens and communities are increasingly waking up to the multiple benefits of energy savings in homes. During the ‘citizen-led renovation’ session two frontrunner cooperatives in this field presented their inspiring approaches and gave valuable lessons to overcome the many challenges involved. Energy Communities Tipperary Cooperative from Tipperary (Ireland) who have used home energy upgrades as a way to invest in the local economy and bring the community together. And Carbon Co-op from Manchester (UK) with their integrated People Powered Retrofit approach providing insight in their social marketing techniques and how they involved citizens in the design of their service.
E-car sharing with the Mobility Factory
The Mobility Factory keeps growing. The network now comprises 14 member co-ops from 5 countries who jointly operate 210 electric cars. TMF wants to continue growing and wants get more communities and cars onto their platform. In the session this afternoon we looked at two cases from Belgium and Germany, discussed the critical success factors for operating an e-car sharing cooperative and we did a demo to show how the platform actually works in practice.
We the Power movie screening
We ended the first day with the screening of the Patagonia film "We the Power! The Future of Energy is Community-Owned," a film about the citizen-led community energy movement in Europe. You can now watch it on our website too!
Cooperative Governance, inside and out
To kick off the second day of our AGM, we had the privilege to get an insight into the experiences of the cooperatives Enercoop and Som Energia, as well as the European cities network Energy Cities. The topic: governance, inside and out. After a short introduction into the difference between REScoops and Fincoops, we dove into cooperative governance models with regards to membership, as well as collective intelligence models of internal (team) governance. What started with experts sharing their perspective, quickly turned into a proactive sharing of experiences and techniques, mixed with questions and answers, from the participants themselves. One of the key takeaways: Accept change as a given, and look for management systems that allow you to adapt to changes and keep your team (and/or your members) happy and motivated.
Cooperativism for a just energy transition
The afternoon session was all about taking a critical introspective stance: who is the ‘community’ in community energy? Is it just the members of a cooperative? Is it the wider community? Are we forgetting anyone? In this session revolved around gender in energy and energy poverty, Marielle Feenstra from the University of Twente challenged us to reflect on how we are dealing with these topics as cooperatives. WECF elaborated on the link between both topics and shared some tools and instruments to help us improve our impact. Already many initiatives are giving their best to enhance inclusiveness and put the European Commission’s “leave no one behind” into practice:
Repowering London, Hyperion and Bündnis Bürgerenergie (BBEn) shared their best practices. Although cooperatives are not the silver bullet to solve these issues, we can be impactful change-makers, pushing the boundaries of the current system! To keep these discussions going we took this session as an opportunity to launch our new working group: Gender Power!
To end the day, we organised three technical trainings, sharing insights on how to build a cooperative and finance them, on the community one-stop-shop, and creating your own impactful cooperative stories. What we took away from these trainings? Although each of the sessions had a very different focus, the key is being able to build trust within your community, or as Siward Zomer from Energie Samen puts it: "by holding on to the right values, dreaming big and working together, a community will find the right solutions to their needs".
Speed-dating a cooperative expert
Throughout the first two days of the AGM experts and REScoop.eu members could connect and share thoughts in one-on-one cooperative speed-dating sessions, Myriam Castanié: "It was great to see people meet and connect; we heard that one visit between cooperatives at least is already being planned as a follow-up".
On the last day of the AGM, our members voted on the board of directors for the next four years. We welcome Ecopower, Enercoop, Som Energia, Energy4All, Coopérnico, Energie Samen, Middelgrunden, and DGRV as our freshly elected board! They will support the REScoop.eu team in setting out our policy and direction.
Looking back on our Annual General Meeting we want to thank all the speakers and participants that joined us in the many fruitful conversations, discussions, and workshops. We feel empowered for another year of growing the movement, spreading the cooperative word, and making the energy system future-proof!