Today, Europe is facing many energy security and resilience challenges. The combination of ambitious transition objectives and the explosion of market prices is urging Member States to take bold steps to support the development of renewable production, building renovation and sobriety. Energy communities can play a significant role in this societal shift. European Research and Development Funds (ERDF) have a key role to play to support the deployment of the community-centered transition solution.

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This briefing authored by Bankwatch and REScoop.eu aims to explain the concept of energy communities and their societal benefits. It specifically targets national managing authorities of Cohesion Funds. It also provides an overview of the EU legal definitions for energy communities, the barriers to their development, recommendations on how to support them and examples of energy communities in Central- and Eastern Europe.

The research shows that the most significant barrier slowing the development and scaling of both new and existing energy communities is the lack of accessible, targeted and consistent funding and financing. Government Programmes and grant support instruments are essential and needed in the early stages of setting up and developing energy communities. Cohesion funds can support this initial phase of energy communities, allowing them to develop sustainable business models. We encourage Member States to utilize this source of funding to create strong enabling frameworks for community energy.

This briefing highlights the concrete actions that managing authorities can take to support the development of energy communities at the national and regional level:

  • Adapt the licensing and administrative procedure to the strength of energy communities : create licensing process that are adapted to the obligations and risks linked to energy communities.
  • Create one-stop shops for energy communities : a specific support service and single contact point will often be the trigger that help energy communities kick start an activity. This specialized support is crucial to adapt the administrative processes to energy communities.
  • Create specific financing tools for energy communities : energy communities have different business models and often different value added. It is important to create tools that are recognizing the specific benefits that they are bringing to energy transition.
  • Support network organisation to encourage bundling and capacity building : cooperation rather than competition is a key element of the development of energy communities. To support the development of those networks is instrumental to the support to start initiatives.