On the way to energy democracy


Publication date

September 8, 2016

On the road away from Paris, the urge to accelerate the green transition of our energy system is no longer disputed. The technology is ready and the economic case is stronger than ever, with renewable energy becoming more competitive than fossil fuels in numerous regions of the world.

Members in the spotlight

“Adopt a panel” in Helsinki

Finland’s largest solar power plant hosted on the roof of the Kivikko ski hall is owned by the city of Helsinki. As part of this project, the city utility, Helen Ltd, had the brilliant idea of inviting local residents to order their own designated panels, meaning they can benefit from solar energy without having to make large initial investments. The panels are rented for €4.40 per month and the electricity generated from them is then deducted from the customer’s bill. 
First tested out in one district of the capital, where the utility had built another solar plant, the panels were sold out within just a few days! Operational since April 2016, the plant has almost 3,000 solar panels, of which half have been ordered by citizens. Annual production is expected to reach about 700 megawatt-hours, equivalent to the yearly electricity consumption of about 350 one-bedroom apartments. 
When asked why they decided to rent the PV panels instead of introducing a net metering system, the city utility project manager Atte Kallio replied: “We asked our customers what they wanted and their answer was designated panels. […] We have promised to build more solar plants for as long as there is a demand for them.[…] This way, our customers have a concrete impact on how electricity is generated in our country”, she added.

Newcastle: From passive consumers to community buyers!

As civic energy is also about making the right consumer choices, the British city of Newcastle has launched a scheme to help its citizens become active energy players and at the same time benefit from cheaper and more efficient services. The local council has thus teamed up with the online switching service “iChoosr”, which helps provide a more competitive deal to citizens through collective buying. The scheme, which is called “Big Community Switch”, has helped hundreds of residents save an average £200 (ca. €260) every year on their gas and electricity bills. Central to this endeavour is also a wish to tackle the very worrying problem of fuel poverty in the city. Coupled with ambitious energy efficiency programmes, this initiative looks set to have promising results!

Mulhouse: Five citizens take action to fight energy poverty!

In Mulhouse, France, five friends decided to create an association to tackle the dire situation of fuel poverty in their city, through more efficient use of resources and the concept of “homemade energy”! After finding out that a 20% variation in energy costs in the country could push 2.5 million households in or out of fuel poverty, they decided it was time to take action. With the support of the municipality, they thus started flexing their ‘citizen muscles’ to relocate energy and founded the association “Mulhouse 100%”: 100% for prosperity, with 100% of people having affordable access to energy. Mulhouse 100% was then renamed “Citizen energy”, a very fitting name!

More examples in the latest edition of EC INFO