Belgium (Flanders)

REC/CEC definitions

Overall assesment

An Energy Decree to transpose the energy communities definitions frames “energy communities” as a single concept, with CECs and RECs representing slightly different notions of this concept. In this sense, Flanders has attempted to ensure coherency around the concept. Specifically, the preamble of the Energy Decree clarifies the purpose of Energy Communities:

  • Strengthening the involvement of citizens, local authorities, non-commercial institutions and companies is an important factor to accelerate the social acceptance of the energy transition and the further development of renewable energy projects.
  • There can be no question of creating an energy community to pursue a purely economic goal (profit) or to avoid contributing to system costs.
  • The guidelines place a strong emphasis on the participation and empowerment of citizens and households in the energy market. While this is not enforced in a strict sense in the articles of the directives, it is all the more evident in the recitals of both directives.
  • Strengthening the position of customers in the energy market, individually or collectively in an energy community, provides opportunities to improve household energy efficiency and combat energy poverty through lower consumption and more advantageous delivery tariffs

The Energy Decree defines control in the same way as the directives.

An energy community of citizens is a legal entity based on the open and voluntary participation of its associates or members, whose main purpose is to provide benefits in the environmental, economic or social field for its associates, members or the environment in which it operates, and which has no profit motive or a profit motive that is subordinate to its main purpose.

The associates or members, in their capacity as customers, are each connected to an electricity network.

Natural persons, local authorities or small enterprises that are not involved in large-scale commercial activities and for whom the energy sector is not the main economic activity shall control the activities of the energy community of citizens of which they are partners or members.

The members or associates of the same energy community of citizens shall each enter into an agreement with the energy community of citizens on their rights and obligations. If energy sharing takes place within the Energy Community of Citizens, the agreement shall contain the rights and obligations of the members or associates for the applicable energy sharing key.

Each Energy Community of Citizens shall determine in its articles of association the rules governing the control of its members or associates.

A renewable energy community is a legal entity based on the open and voluntary participation of its associates or members, whose main purpose is to provide environmental, economic or social benefits for its associates, members or the environment in which it operates, and which has no profit motive or a profit motive that is subordinate to its main purpose.

The renewable energy community's activities of energy production, self-consumption, energy sales and energy sharing shall only relate to energy from renewable energy sources.

The partners or members of the renewable energy community are natural persons, local authorities or small and medium-sized enterprises whose participation in the energy community does not constitute the main commercial or professional activity and who are located in proximity to the renewable energy projects of the renewable energy community. The partners or members, in their capacity as customers, are each connected to an electricity network, a heat or cold network. The partners or members have control over the activities of the renewable energy community. The renewable energy community is autonomous with respect to its individual members and associates or other market participants who participate in it through other means, such as investment.

A renewable energy community shall limit participation on the basis of technical or geographical proximity, taking into account the function of the objectives or activities that the renewable energy community intends to achieve.

A renewable energy community shall own the property rights to the assets it uses to carry out its activities.

The members or associates of the same renewable energy community shall each enter into an agreement with the renewable energy community regarding their rights and obligations. If energy sharing is undertaken within the renewable energy community, the agreement shall contain the rights and obligations of the members or associates for the energy sharing key that is applicable.

Each renewable energy community shall determine in its articles of association the rules governing the control of its members or associates and the autonomy of the renewable energy community.

Lastly, the legislation introduces monitoring and oversight. Specifically, Each REC or CEC shall notify the Flemish regulator of the following:

  • 1° the activities it carries out and any change in those activities;
  • 2° the way in which it is composed and, if applicable, the way in which it interprets the concept of technical or geographical proximity,

The regulator publishes this information on its website. This will help ensure that the concept is not abused, and enhance trust.

Detailed assesment

Criteria of EU definition reflected in national definition

Yes, no more, no less.

Level of detail in the elaboration of principles contained in EU criteria

Most principles are not elaborated in detail. CECs and RECs are instead required to elaborate in their articles of association the rules governing control, autonomy, as well as rights and obligations. Furthermore, participation is limited to members that do not participate in energy communities as a primary professional activity.

For RECs:

  • geographical proximity - it is flexible according to different activities RECs can perform. An REC must simply limit participation on the basis of technical or geographical proximity, taking into account the function of the objectives or activities that the renewable energy community intends to achieve.
  • Autonomy – it is a requirement that RECs must be autonomous from individual members, but there is no elaborated standard to ensure autonomy is maintained

Clearly defined purpose

In the preamble, but not in the articles – the language for CECs and RECs simply state that the main purpose is to provide environmental, economic or social benefits for its associates, members or the environment in which it operates, and which has no profit motive or a profit motive that is subordinate to its main purpose. In this sense, the definitions make an effort to ensure that the profits are not a main objective.

ICA cooperative governance principles reflected

Yes, to the extent they are included in the directives.

Legal entities allowed

Not defined (but most likely only cooperatives and not for profit organisations comply because of the criteria that apply to RECs and CECs).

Citizen participation is ensured

No, although the recitals state that the objective of energy communities is to strengthen the involvement of citizens, local authorities, non-commercial institutions and companies is an important factor to accelerate the social acceptance of the energy transition and the further development of renewable energy projects.

Designated authority to oversee

VREG, the national regulator, is charged with registering and monitoring energy communities. Notification must indicate how the energy community meets the required criteria (voluntary entry, autonomy, control, ownership, objectives. One drawback is that there is no requirement to make this information transparent.

Number of definitions

2

Coherency between both definitions

Both definitions are framed under the umbrella concept of ‘energy communities’. In this sense, coherency is maintained. However, energy communities have wide discretion to adopt internal rules that must comply with the principles. Strong monitoring will be required to ensure coherence with the original concept.