REScoop.eu, the European federation of citizen energy cooperatives, has published a guide packed with instructions, practical tips, powerful success stories, and invaluable resources to build a local, community-led renewable energy revolution.
This decade is crucial to fight climate change and speed up the energy transition. By putting energy back in the hands of people and communities, we can take on climate and social challenges collectively. Aren't you sure about the advantages of community-owned energy yet? Here you can find ten reasons to start or join a community energy project!
1. You’ll be building the system needed to stop the climate crisis
Last year, the majority of our energy still came from polluting fossil fuels. A shocking 82% of the energy consumption in the European Union came from fossil fuel and nuclear. The climate emergency we are living in, requires a very different energy system: we need to stop burning fossil fuels that disrupt our climate, and we need a decentralised system to switch to 100% renewables.
While corporations that run the energy system for profit have consistently blocked action that threatens their own financial interest, at the expense of people and the planet; community-owned renewable energy projects significantly cut carbon emissions by replacing fossil fuels. They also put renewable energy into the hands of people, making possible an energy system that is 100% renewable, democratically owned and doesn’t compromise the well-being of future generations.
Half of all European Union citizens could be producing their own electricity by 2050, meeting 45% of the EU’s energy demand. This would represent a massive shift away from polluting fuels that produce CO2 and destabilise the climate.
2. Community renewables redirect money supporting the fossil fuel system
Big energy companies that operate only for profit are causing problems for the climate and our communities. When you pay your energy bill to a big utility company, you don’t have control over what happens with the money.
By joining a renewable energy community, you will stop paying bills to a company that burns fuel, and the benefits of the electricity that you consume will go to a community that you are part of and you will have a say in how the money will be used.
Millions of citizens across Europe have savings sitting in the bank that are unknowingly fuelling the climate crisis as banks and pensions invest in dirty energy projects. Investing your savings in community energy can redirect this money to climate solutions and the local economy.
3. It can reduce energy poverty in your area
Many community-owned energy projects provide an allowance of electricity at low cost to the people involved. For example, in the UK, many people who couldn’t afford their energy bills were placed on more expensive ‘pay-as-you go’ tariffs. Thanks to the Brixton Solar community project, local residents were instead provided with an amount of free electricity, generated by solar panels on their roofs. The project also provides ‘draught buster’ workshops to help people cut their energy consumption and bills.
When communities own the means to produce their own energy, they have more control over the costs, don’t have an incentive to overcharge people, and don’t demand higher prices like big energy companies.
4. You’ll get to know your neighbours and strengthen your community
Communities that embark on successful renewable energy projects together, develop a sense of pride and confidence. Working together, people develop valuable skills and strengthen relationships with their neighbours. Communities that have worked together on a clean energy project are more likely to set in motion other projects which also benefit their community.
5. You will produce your own renewable energy
When you participate in a community energy project, you own the energy production resources along with the other members of the community. This means that you will have freedom to choose the type of technology you want to use (solar panels, windmills, biomass…), where to install it, the price at which you sell the electricity… The profits of producing renewable energy will also belong to the community.
Local opposition to energy projects can be a major barrier to renewables. Sometimes, it’s not difficult to understand why: too often, large scale developments are imposed on communities, with minimal opportunities for local residents to give input, voice their concerns, or take part. But when people are involved in the project, or even better, when they own it, acceptance and support can massively increase. They are also empowered to mitigate negative effects, for example by carefully choosing where to place windmill sites in their local area.
6. It creates spaces to educate people on the issues of energy, climate and democracy
Following the fifth cooperative principle, many energy communities provide education and training for their members and the general public. The sessions are usually around the electricity bill, energy saving, energy efficiency, self-production of renewable energy, climate action, sustainable life, democratic forms of organisation, soft skills…
These actions raise awareness about the energy transition in the community and empower citizens to take action.
7. It keeps the money locally in your community
Community energy projects are usually owned by local people rather than large companies managed by investors living far from the community producing and consuming the energy.
Research shows that community energy projects generate 2 to 8 times more local revenue than a project carried out by an external actor (as solar and wind power projects have shown). They create jobs, and can help create local energy markets where consumers can buy energy at a stable and fair price.
8. You will show other communities what is possible
Some people are hesitant to change their traditional energy provider for a community energy project because it is something new and unknown. A successful project increases the confidence in community energy and it is an inspiring and guiding example for other citizens to launch their own initiative. The expertise acquired by one project overcoming barriers and obstacles will also pave the way for new projects taking the same path.
Moreover, experience shows that it is easier to convince new people to join a project once it is up and running, or when members are given the opportunity to use the energy directly. When people see the project’s success, they gain confidence on it and they want to get involved.
9. It will contribute to creating a more local, more circular economy
Because they are local, communities are more likely to support local or regional manufacturers applying high social and environmental standards and reinvest revenues in local projects.
Sharing the financial benefits of the project also strengthens communities, and many community energy projects have small funding schemes that distribute grants to local voluntary groups and clubs.
10. You will be building the kind of world you want to see
Community energy is key to a decarbonised economy and a crucial step in tackling climate change. This is about more than windmills and solar panels. Community energy can help find a new balance between local economies and the global economy. It can help overcome the urban and rural divide, and close the gap between north and south, between rich and poor — because it empowers local people. Community energy leads to energy democracy, holding the promise of an economy and society based on co-operation rather than competition, within the boundaries of planet earth.
If you are now convinced to begin or join a community energy project, but you are not sure where to start; REScoop.eu, together with Friends of the Earth and Energy Cities has published the community energy handbook that will help you on your way!
The guide gathers expertise from 27 projects around Europe and is packed with instructions, practical tips, powerful success stories and invaluable resources to build a local, community-led renewable energy revolution.
You too can be part of this quiet revolution and this book tells you how!
REScoop.eu is the European federation of citizen energy cooperatives. Founded in 2013, REScoop.eu is a growing network of 1.900 cooperatives operating across Europe and jointly represents over 1,25 million citizens. Through REScoop.eu, energy cooperatives wish to make their voices heard in the European energy debate. More information: www.rescoop.eu