Energy Communities An overview of energy and social innovation
This report is providing an overview of the activities, organisation and implications of energy communities as participants across the energy system. It identifies them as contiguous processes of both the energy transition and social innovation. Paths for future policy implications and research initiatives are analysed and informed. The European Commission’s Clean Energy for All Europeans Package is stated as the indicator of the role prosumers and their collective forms will play in the future energy system.
The EU legislative framework formally acknowledges and defines specific types of community energy as “renewable energy communities” and “citizen energy communities”. Two EU legislative documents provide for the first time an enabling EU legal framework for collective citizen participation in the energy system. They describe energy communities as new types of non-commercial entities that, although they engage in an economic activity, their primary purpose is to provide environmental, economic or social community benefits rather than prioritise profit making (REScoop.EU, 2019)
24 community energy schemes across 9 EU countries are analysed. In Europe, there is a total of 3500 renewable energy cooperatives.
This report identifies energy communities as decentralised and renewable-based energy projects, that can promote sustainable energy production and consumption practices. As consumer-empowerment and community-driven initiatives they reflect a fundamental shift in consumer behaviour. Collective energy initiatives investing in renewables can provide local income and investments, and keep financial benefits from local resources within the community.
The report also defines them as a type of social innovation that can promote more socially fair models of energy prosumership, as they enhance citizens’ democratic decision-making and control over renewable energy. The risk that energy communities might create social disparities between its members and other consumers is also identified.
The findings of the 24 case studies show that countries with long history and national authorities supporting community ownership made it easier for community energy to emerge. Yet differences in economic factors such as income levels and the ability to acquire ownership in renewables installations are identified to play a role too.