Strong support for ‘citizens energy communities’ in Europe’s new electricity market design, but holes remain
Brussels, 19 December 2018 – Last night, the European Parliament and the Council reached a political agreement on the EU’s new electricity market design: The Electricity Directive and the Electricity Regulation. The final legislation contains brand new provisions to support the development of ‘citizens energy communities’ throughout Europe, a boon for citizens that want to participate collectively in the energy transition. But the legislation also contains significant flaws and the market design is incoherent with the Renewables Directive concluded earlier this year, particularly on the respective definitions of energy communities. Furthermore, the new legislation funnels subsidies at fossil fuels for at least another decade, undermining the fundamental changes that Europe’s energy market needs to help us meet our Paris Climate Agreement objectives.
Most importantly, a new definition of ‘citizens energy communities’ is clearly aimed at supporting European citizens, small businesses and local authorities. Citizens energy communities will have a right to a level playing field and proportionate regulations so they can have fair access to all areas of the electricity market. Energy communities will also be able to share energy, providing opportunities for innovation and local renewable energy supply. The European Parliament was able to guarantee that energy communities can get their renewable energy into the market by keeping priority dispatch for small renewables installations.
Despite these important wins, the political agreement on citizens energy communities is far from perfect. The Electricity Directive is inconsistent with rules on renewable energy communities under the Renewables Directive, mainly on the definition. Eligibility requirements, and more importantly the rules for the internal governance of energy communities, will be more relaxed for citizens energy communities compared to renewable energy communities. This inconsistency will create legal uncertainty for energy communities, while more lax governance requirements could allow larger companies to set up and indirectly control citizens energy communities. There could also be differences in how network charges are calculated for citizens energy communities versus renewable energy communities. Furthermore, the Council made it optional for Member States whether or to give energy communities the right to own and operate grids.
Finally, the political agreement waters down Commission and European Parliament proposals to limit, and have EU oversight over, the creation of capacity mechanisms in order to prop up dirty, inflexible fossil fuels. This will shoulder consumers with even more financial burden while benefiting energy companies that are holding back the energy transition. It will also create more market obstacles for citizens energy communities that want to invest in and drive the clean energy transition.
Dirk Vansintjan, President of REScoop.eu explains: “The legislation that was just agreed will provide many opportunities to energy communities across Europe – opportunities they don’t have today, as energy communities are not even mentioned in EU energy policy. It is encouraging that the EU now acknowledges and supports the valuable role that citizens and communities can play in the energy transition.” He continues, “While we are far from where we need to be, we need to continue working at national level and in our communities to ensure the energy transition happens.”
With this agreement, the final pieces of the EU’s Clean Energy for All Europeans legislative package are now in place. The next step is that the political agreement must be signed off by both the European Parliament and the Council through their respective procedures. Once the legislation enters into force, Member States will begin the task of writing the new rules into national legislation.
REScoop is the European federation for renewable energy cooperatives. We are a growing network of 1,500 European REScoops and their 1,000,000 citizens who are active in the energy transition. Our members produce and supply renewable energy, operate distribution networks, perform energy efficiency, perform aggregation, engage in energy sharing, and provide electric car-sharing.
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