During The LECSEA final conference, one central question was on the table: “Is there a future for energy communities?” Trying to find answers, speakers and participants from France, the UK, The Netherlands and Belgium gathered at the impressive Transfo site - a heritage power plant to be equipped with the energy system of the future.
The consensus is straightforward: “Yes! There is a future for energy communities, but...”
We are not in the future we hoped to be. Following the implementation of the ambitious and visionary energy communities concept by the EU member states, we find ourselves unable to make the necessary step forward. Somewhere, the implementation of the energy communities concept got stuck. Today’s energy market is organised via a rigid legal/organisational entanglement designed for the energy system of the past, the vertical energy system. To grow, energy communities need the fertile ground of policies embracing citizens and SME’s as active, emancipated energy citizens and not merely passive consumers, individually or as a group. Today, they are barely allowed to carry out the activities as presented in the definition: to produce, distribute and sell energy in their community, as protagonists in a horizontal energy system.
Communities are excited, they are getting ready, waiting to be unleashed. The conference keenly demonstrated the potential of citizens and SME’s to jointly take action as energy communities. Success stories, however, need long and intensive processes, resulting in setting up smart but complex organisational structures in order to comply with all requirements. Moreover, the lack of clear and simple procedures hampers the access of broad segments of society.
As such, the LECSEA project has made a number of policy recommendations in order to fully deploy the potential of energy communities, which should result in a more equitable energy transition, bringing the benefits of clean energy to all.
Policy recommendations to the EU
- Assess the impact of EU and national regulation on energy communities: is it effective and efficient?
- Adjust the directives by
- improving their coherence,
- removing existing barriers that block the full deployment of the concept of energy communities.
- Provide arrangements for small groups of citizens to make it easy to adopt renewable energy collectively.
Policy recommendations to national authorities
- Define high-potential use cases for energy communities and facilitate said use cases when transposing the EU directives.
- Design light, proportionate procedures and obligations, adapted to the scale of (small) energy communities.
- Provide instruments to
- support project development,
- reduce the risks and
- secure (pre)funding of investments by energy communities.
Policy recommendations to local authorities & actors
- Define in your energy strategies an active role for citizens and SME’s so they become actors in your strategy.
- Facilitate by way of community building citizens and businesses to accept the energy transition. Get the vibe. Community building is a long-term process.
- An energy community is not a goal, it is a means.
- Citizens engaged in energy cooperatives, by Philippe Awouters, Belgium
- Citizens in social housing, by Sébastien Berly, France
- Community energy for businesses, by Ingrid Bennett, UK
- New pains and gains for citizens: wind energy, by Joris van der Geest, the Netherlands