Connecting communities to the grid

Optimism and openness at the energy community alumni meetup


Publication date

September 19, 2022

While the critical energy supply is driving the news, it makes sense to also look behind the big geopolitical scene. Optimism comes when we see what solutions are emerging at local level. Supported by the European Climate Foundation (ECF), Energy Cities organized a community energy meetup mid-September at which 15 city and cooperative representatives from five countries introduced their current renewable energy projects and stories. All of them had been participants in one of the three ECF collaboration labs that had been organized over the past two years to stimulate city-citizen cooperation at local level. Now, last week’s “Alumni event” brought them all together for the very first time to unwind and celebrate their energy community progress.

7 city cohorts from 5 countries took part in the ECF collaboration labs between 2020 and 2022

From Valencia in Spain to Prague in Czech Republic, from Ilioupoli in Greece to Strasburg in France, the state-of-the art diagnosis is shared: cities, citizen organizations and SMEs are seizing any possible opportunity to cooperate and jointly design renewable energy schemes. And they do this against all odds: Despite legal barriers and blurry regulation in their country they spend incredible amounts of hours and very personal energy on matching roofs with RES installations, connecting PV panels with consumers and, most of all, bringing people together with people.

For a start, Josh Roberts from RESCoop, gave an insight into what’s new and what’s next in EU legislation related to local energy communities. As the Transposition tracker shows, there is still a lot that needs to be implemented at national level. And this is true even in countries like France where community energy legislation is quite advanced including a rather elaborate definition. And still, challenges remain for local governments to set up legal entities or qualify for support schemes. This is particularly true since a legislative change forbids public authorities to benefit from several state aids at once. Gerard Pol-Gili from the Metropolitan Area of Strasburg reported on how this legal change smashed the Energy Brewers’ business case. These “Brasseurs de l’Energie” are Strasburg’s first energy community that is up and running since the End of 2021.

During this 3-hours meetup, the city delegates in the (virtual) room demonstrated that the local scene is evolving at least as fast as the EU and national frameworks are. And municipalities do find ways working around immature and disadvantaging laws.

Some (of many) activities that helped boost community energy in the alumni places and that other local governments should try out:

  • Tailor public roof tendering in a way that cooperative and citizen-driven initiatives are part of the eligibility criteria
  • Recruit one staff member who is dedicated to provide tailored assistance to local energy communities (technical or financial support, business development etc.)
  • Register your community as a classic company while applying democratic cooperative governance rules (one voice-one vote, etc.) – this may simplify the setup of your RES entity.
  • Apply to technical assistance schemes such as the European City Facility, the EU Energy Communities Repository or Covenant of Mayors.

All lab cities did amazing work and undoubtedly Strasburg and Valencia have become a beacon for cities engaging in community energy. Their powerful stories can help others set realistic expectations for their journey. What’s more, they show how impactful it is when the local government becomes a driving force, when it frees human and financial means to activate and support citizen initiatives for renewables.

From one-stop shop advice on renewable self-consumption or crowdfunded PV on public roofs to full positive energy districts with citizen involvement – participants were amazed by how large the scope of democratic energy transition initiatives is. This alumni event was an opportunity to understand the challenges and potentials local governments see when it comes to community energy. And as one participant said at the end of the event: “Once again we learned a lot of things and it was a great reminder: we’re not alone.”.

For those who were not part of any collaboration lab, don’t worry: within Energy cities’ Hub 3 we’ll keep you posted on projects, funding and networking opportunities. Subscribe now!

Valencia's energy community journey - presentation

Energy Cities Alumni Event - València

Strasburg's energy community journey - presentation

Energy Cities Alumni Event - Strasburg