Allison Le Corre
October 24, 2022
This September, experts and aspiring leaders of energy communities from across Europe met in Paris for the first of many exchanges. The diverse and international crew of community energy enthusiasts laid out the groundwork for the newly formed Community Energy Helpdesk. As part of the SCCALE 20-30-50 project, this Helpdesk provides a space for those with experience setting up energy communities to help others who are just getting started and need some guidance.
The experts of this Helpdesk are in large part the partners of the project. From energy cooperatives and municipalities with experience setting up energy communities in 5 different countries – France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Greece and Croatia – the SCCALE partners have also identified and gathered other experts from different cities in their countries to bring in different perspectives.
While the partners work on setting up pilot communities in their countries, they are also supporting replication sites in their areas that will take up their pilots’ models. The idea, as the name of the project indicates, is to scale up the amount of energy communities in each country and beyond. In this context, partners of SCCALE 20-30-50 are recruiting interest from other community members and leaders interested in setting up energy communities, and are integrating them in their network of experts through this new Helpdesk.
The meeting in Paris was the first opportunity for the experts of the project and beyond to meet and mingle with different actors from the replication sites. This served as a first gathering of the Helpdesk, as a way of exploring all the facets and potential of this community. Focused on mapping out the different expertise as well as needs of all the actors present, this inauguration was a first step in the Helpdesk’s development, deciding which form it should take.
The launch of the Helpdesk in Paris introduced the different experts and the pilot sites of the project that are there to support. After hearing from the host and coordinator of the Helpdesk, Hugo Weisbecker from Enercoop, coordinator of SCCALE 20-30-50, Daan Creupelandt from REScoop.eu, introduced the concept of the Helpdesk in the context of the project.
We want to rely on local people who have the experience to help others set up their own energy communities – that is what the energy community helpdesk is about.Daan Creupelandt, coordinator of SCCALE 20-30-50 Project
Following the project partners, we got to hear directly from a member of one of the pilot sites, Maëlle Guillou, who explained how their collective Les Economes materialized thanks to the support of experts from Enercoop such as Hugo. Enercoop helped Les Economes with everything from developing the concept to administrative support. This is what the Helpdesk strives to do with other energy communities.
The last speaker at the launch was Gerard Pol Gili from the Eurométropole of Strasbourg, one of the experts external to the project but involved as an Advisee. He inspired the group with his story of the Brasseurs d’Energie and how the Eurométropole of Strasbourg helped the energy community get off the ground.
Following the official launch of the Helpdesk, the different members present got to know the different pilot sites in an interactive and dynamic way. A dialogue between members of the pilot sites was put into motion in centre stage, giving others the opportunity to jump in and join the conversation when they had something to contribute.
As pilot members discussed their different approaches to training, co creation and governance, other members of the Helpdesk present in the exercise could intervene to share their own experiences or raise questions. Through these conversations, the different pilot members tackled questions around professionalisation versus working with volunteers, which training methods and tools to use, ideal communications channels, ways of engaging and maintaining members’ involvement, along with many other essential topics that all energy communities unavoidably must deal with.
These conversations brought to light diverging models and approaches. For instance, while discussing training, we saw a very structured and tiered models of training and professionalisation in the Belgian pilot, and a more organic way of passing knowledge in the Greek pilot, as well as some more innovative approaches using gamification in the French pilot. While discussing co-creation and models of governance, we also faced different situations due to very divergent pilots in size, scope and activity, offering a wide range of examples to find guidance and inspiration.
This exercise, along with the speakers at the launch, highlighted the richness and scope of the experts involved in the SCCALE 20-30-50 project: new energy communities, no matter their size and field, will undoubtably find someone from the Helpdesk to guide them in their process.
These conversations were complemented by a Study Visit for all members of the Helpdesk to solar panel project, Halle Pajol. Located just a few minutes away from the Bassin de la Villette where the event was taking place, Halle Pajol is an old train repair warehouse that was transformed into one of Paris’ biggest solar power installations, with 500 kw peek installed.
Completely renovated, the old metallic structure of the warehouse now frames a newly constructed wooden building which upholds rows of giant solar panels. Inside, it hosts a hostel, a coffee shop and a library. This project was founded in 2011 as an initiative from the city of Paris who owned the building. To bring the project to life, they partnered with banks (26%) and EDF (26%) to support the initial investment. In 2016, the city decides to pass on their share of the project, looking for an investor to repurchase 49% of the shares. This is where the association Energie Partagee Investissements stepped in and created a fund for citizen investment which would be able to finance this project among others in Ile-de-France.
Now, Halle Pajol stands as one of Energie Partagee’s citizen backed projects in the Ile-de-France area. They still maintain close relations with the city of Paris, who facilitates processes for them and intermediates dialogues with different actors, such as architects.
This visit served as an example to inspire the different experts and aspiring energy community members of the SCCALE 20-30-50 Helpdesk, for them to explore different possibilities and financing models for community energy projects.
If you join the Helpdesk, there will be opportunities to participate in future Study Visits such as this one to find inspiration.
This project is part of our Hub on Community-led Energy for Massive Renewable Production.
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