Energy communities organise collective and citizen-driven energy actions that help pave the way for a clean energy transition, while moving citizens to the fore. They contribute to increasing public acceptance of renewable energy projects and make it easier to attract private investments in the clean energy transition. At the same time, they have the potential to provide direct benefits to citizens by increasing energy efficiency, lowering their electricity bills and creating local job opportunities.
By supporting citizen participation, energy communities can help providing flexibility to the electricity system through demand-response and storage.
Energy communities offer a means to re-structure our energy systems by harnessing energy and allowing citizens to participate actively in the energy transition and thereby enjoy greater benefits.
Energy communities can take any form of legal entity, for instance that of an association, a cooperative, a partnership, a non- profit organisation or a small/medium-sized enterprise. It makes it easier for its citizens, together with other market players, to team up and jointly invest in energy assets. This in turn, helps contribute to a more decarbonised and flexible energy system, as the energy communities can act as one entity and access all suitable energy markets, on a level-playing field with other market actors.
Energy Communities Initiatives
The European Parliament has provided funding for the European Commission to set up 2 different projects that contribute to the dissemination of best practices and provide technical assistance for the development of concrete energy community initiatives across the EU: the Energy Communities Repository and the Rural Energy Community Advisory Hub.
Energy Communities Repository
Launched in April 2022, the objective of the Energy Communities Repository is to assist local actors and citizens willing to set up a Citizens Energy Community or a Renewable Energy Community in urban areas through technical and administrative advice, and encourage their development.
Through the collected data, the Energy Communities Repository identifies enabling and supporting frameworks for renewable energy communities and citizen energy communities as defined in the Renewable Energy Directive and in the Internal Electricity Market Directive. It also conducts impact assessments of energy communities and disseminates best practices and know-how for local authorities, businesses, citizens and citizen organisations that wish to set up energy communities, in particular in EU countries that do not yet have a strong tradition of such initiatives.
The projects that will receive targeted technical assistance under this initiative are primarily urban energy communities from East-European countries, such as Latvijas Energokopiena in Latvia, Energetska zadruga Drenova in Croatia and izgrei bg in Bulgaria, and will serve as examples of positive local actions to inspire widespread efforts for citizen-driven initiatives through the development of energy communities.
The repository has been implemented by a consortium made by Energy Cities, REScoop, FEDARENE, akaryon and the European University Institute/Florence School of Regulation, and it will run for 24 months.
Rural Energy Community Advisory Hub
The Rural Energy Community Advisory Hub was launched in June 2022. It focuses on assisting citizens, rural actors and local authorities in setting up a Citizen Energy Community or Renewable Energy Community in rural areas through technical and administrative advice, and encourage their development.
Its key activities include
- identification of best practices concerning support frameworks for rural energy community projects, with close involvement of local authorities
- providing technical assistance to selected rural energy communities
- providing networking opportunities to local stakeholders
This advisory hub can be seen as an extension of the Energy Communities Repository and the Covenant of Mayors, with a special focus on accelerating the development of energy communities in close collaboration with local authorities in rural areas.
The collected data through this initiative constitutes a very important source of information for the European institutions and national, regional and local authorities and relevant stakeholders as it contributes to the identification and dissemination of best practices and know-how for local authorities in particular, as well as businesses, farmers and citizens that wish to set up rural energy communities.
The advisory hub has been implemented on behalf of the Commission by a consortium consisting of RICARDO, Ecorys and Elard, and it will run for 24 months.
Citizens and renewable energy communities
Through the Clean energy for all Europeans package, adopted in 2019, the EU introduced the concept of energy communities in its legislation, notably as citizen energy communities and renewable energy communities.
More specifically, the Directive on common rules for the internal electricity market ((EU) 2019/944) includes new rules that enable active consumer participation, individually or through citizen energy communities, in all markets, either by generating, consuming, sharing or selling electricity, or by providing flexibility services through demand-response and storage. The directive aims to improve the uptake of energy communities and make it easier for citizens to integrate efficiently in the electricity system, as active participants.
In addition, the revised Renewable energy directive (2018/2001/EU) aims to strengthen the role of renewables self-consumers and renewable energy communities. EU countries should therefore ensure that they can participate in available support schemes, on equal footing with large participants.
Empowering renewable energy communities to produce, consume, store and sell renewable energy will also help advance energy efficiency in households, support the use of renewable energy and at the same time contribute to fighting poverty through reduced energy consumption and lower supply tariffs.