Europe’s Community Energy Initiatives Forge Ahead

Europe’s energy transition is seeing a rapid growth in community energy initiatives.
Published: Thu 21 Aug 2014

Over the past two decades, there has been a wave of grass root initiatives by citizens who are taking more control of their energy production and distribution. Most of this activity is taking place across Europe’s Northwest, according to Dirk Vansintjan, president and co-coordinator of project REscoop 20-20-20, Ecopower cvba who spoke to Engerati at the European Union Sustainable Energy Week.

REScoop 20-20-20 is an initiative launched by the Federation of groups and cooperatives of citizens for renewable energy in Europe with the support of the Intelligent Energy Europe Program (European Commission). Twelve organisations in seven countries have joined forces to increase the number of successful community-led renewable energy projects across Europe.

Community energy is a dilemma for utilities

The consumer to prosumer movement is posing a huge dilemma for traditional distribution network operators and energy producers. In Flanders, for instance, grid consumption has plummeted dramatically by 46% over an eight year period. “Almost 40% of our members have rooftop solar panels, solar boilers and insulation. If you consider that every citizen in Europe has the ability to do this, it could transform the market considerably. The big utilities and distribution companies will have to adapt to this new reality. Solar panels are so cheap that practically everyone can install them. It’s time for traditional utilities to adapt or they become extinct,” says Vansintjan.

Consumers have an active role

Vansintjan says that consumers want to become more active in the energy sector and are keen to seize the opportunities that the energy transition is bringing about. He adds that this is an opportunity for citizens to be more active in energy production, distribution and transmission in the future.

“Since consumers will end up paying for the energy transition, it only makes sense that they want to be active in the decision-making process,” says Vansintjan.

There are currently over 2,400 energy cooperatives across Northwest Europe. There are some parts of Europe that do not have any at this point. Vansintjan says that without the right legislation and economic frameworks and support mechanisms, energy cooperatives will not be created.