How can a city bring vulnerable people closer to renewable energy ?

City of Eeklo wins European Social innovation Award for its social cooperative shares scheme


Publication date

November 20, 2023

In some of our EU-funded projects, successes remain small and invisible. In others, there is a big boom and confetti and smiles! We are really proud that the fantastic work against energy poverty carried out by our partners in the Belgian city of Eeklo has been recognised: Eeklo is one of 3 winners of the European Social Innovation Award!

Eeklo’s scheme, which has been developed and launched in the framework of the POWER UP project, will enable low-income households to become members of the energy cooperative Ecopower. How?

The city pre-finances cooperative shares and lends these to people who would not be able to pay this upfront cost on their own. Over several years, these beneficiaries will then pay the share back through a small monthly fee.

As of day one, though, the shareholders will be full members of the Ecopower cooperative including all rights that come with it such as getting renewable energy at a fair price or having a voice at Ecopower’s decision-making. This rolling fund of pre-financed social energy shares makes local renewable energy accessible for all (visual summary of the scheme here). It is a first of its kind in Europe and has great potential to be implemented in other local governments wanting to help people in energy poverty.

In this interview, Jan de Pauw from Ecopower and Fien Vandebeke from the City administration of Eeklo explain the stumbling blocks they had to remove and the opportunities they see in implementing this scheme.

Congratulations to the team behind the scheme. Through the POWER UP project, Energy Cities helped prepare the birth, but the credit for labor and delivery go to the people at Eeklo City Council and Ecopower. Their commitment definitely will make a difference for people in difficult energy situations!

Eeklo is one of five pilots in the POWER UP project that are developing innovative business models to fight energy poverty and facilitate access to efficient and renewable energy. Have a look at the overview of business models through which new social energy players are emerging all over Europe.