Promoting gender equality and inclusion in energy communities
In recent years, the energy sector has seen significant transformations driven by the urgent need to address climate change and transition to sustainable energy sources. As part of this transition, REScoop.eu, the European federation of citizen energy cooperatives, has placed a strong emphasis on promoting gender equality and inclusion in the energy community movement. In this blog post, we will delve into the progress we've made and the road ahead.
Taking up a leading role
Still today, many gender disparities persist within the energy sector. Studies by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) from 2019, 2021 & 2022 provide evidence of the substantial barriers women still face within the energy field.
Unfortunately, what holds true for the broader energy sector, is also reflected in the community energy sector. Despite the progress that has been made, gender gaps still exists regarding female participation, average ownership rates, visibility, and representation in management positions. Furthermore, energy communities often struggle to attract female members, particularly women from vulnerable groups. Addressing gender gaps within the energy sector will be crucial in tackling energy poverty, a phenomenon that disproportionately affects women.
In recent years, energy cooperatives have intensified their efforts to close the gender gap within the energy sector. REScoop.eu is committed to taking a leading role in achieving a more (gender)-equal sector.
The charter of commitment on equality
In 2020, REScoop.eu signed the Charter of Commitment on Equality between Women and Men in Cooperatives by Cooperatives Europe. This charter recognizes the vital role cooperatives play in providing decent employment and reducing inequalities. It emphasizes the core importance of gender equality within cooperatives and the European Union.
Internally, REScoop.eu, together with some of its members, created a Gender Ambition Statement, inviting all REScoop.eu members to contribute to a just energy transition by promoting the meaningful participation of people of all genders on equal terms.
Moreover, REScoop.eu has incorporated gender equality and justice in its organisational structure. Its statutes require the appointment of two representatives of different genders for each cooperative member in the board. The presidency and vice-presidency roles are being shared between individuals of different genders.
Gender Power working group
In 2021, REScoop.eu established a Gender Power working group to further advance its commitment to gender equality. This working group focuses on mapping the needs and challenges faced by energy cooperatives, offering a space for sharing best practices, tools, and strategies for promoting gender diversity. Its responsibilities include amplifying the voices and needs of women and all genders in the energy sector, increasing awareness of gender-related inequalities, and taking measures to eradicate discriminatory practices.
The working group calls for an intersectional approach of the gender issue. They consider the diverse identities that individuals hold, such as age, ethnicity, gender identity, educational background, disability, and sexual orientation. This holistic approach ensures that everyone is included in the energy transition.
REScoop.eu actively shares the experiences of the working group with members and other stakeholders and is part of the Equality platform for the energy sector, established by the European Commission.
Gender Action Plan
While some actions for gender equality were already implemented, in 2023, REScoop.eu decided to take further steps and develop a gender equality plan. This plan outlines a range of measures to promote gender equality and inclusion across various topics:
- Inclusive Recruitment
- Non-Gender Bias Evaluation
- Gender Training Modules
- Reflecting Gender Equality in the Statutes
- Gender-Balanced Boards
- Membership Diversity
To enhance awareness and capacity in diversity and inclusion, REScoop.eu has organized workshops, training sessions, and campaigns.
On November 16th, REScoop.eu was acknowledged for its work on gender equality by Solar Power Europe during its Solar Works Fair. The Solar Diversity Champion Awards recognise and celebrate organisations that have demonstrated commitment and success in creating diverse, inclusive work environments. The #SolarWorksFair panel applauded REScoop.eu’s gender equality and justice ethos across its activities, highlighting its ‘Charter of Commitment on Equality between Women and Men in Cooperatives,’ and its Gender Power Working Group.
The award acknowledges REScoop.eu's holistic approach and commitment to gender equality and social justice as a testament to its dedication in advancing inclusivity and fairness within the energy cooperative landscape
In a reaction to the award Dirk Vansintjan, President, and Nuri Palmada, Vice-President, REScoop.eu said; "Gender equality in the energy sector is not only a matter of justice and human rights, but is also key to unlocking the full potential of renewable energy. As the European federation of citizen energy cooperatives, we embrace diversity and inclusivity, recognising that the collective strength of all genders is essential in achieving a 100% renewable, and democratic energy transition for all."
The Road Ahead
One of the major hurdles REScoop.eu continues to face is limited time and expertise. To overcome this, the federation collaborates with experts and pioneering energy cooperatives and actively participates in events and discussions. Nevertheless, the road ahead is still long and there is still much more work to be done.
As the transition to a sustainable and just energy system continues, REScoop.eu wishes to keep on emphasizing the importance of considering diversity in every aspect of the journey towards a greener, more inclusive energy future. By promoting gender equality and inclusivity, the federation encourages its network to build resilient communities and sets an example for others to follow.