Tapping the full potential of community energy in Europe: 9 EU-funded projects join forces to engage users in the tools they developed
In a digital event gathering over 100 participants, 9 EU-funded projects showcased the tools they are providing to organise/plan/grow a community energy initiative.
Energy communities have high potential for moving away from imported fossil fuels, and tools made for various market players, from citizens to technology providers, can support. It was the opportunity for BECoop to release its Knowledge Exchange Platform and call upon users to join its Network of Interest.
We increasingly request from citizens and consumers to do their share and contribute to the effort to reduce energy consumption everywhere in the world. Last week again, the International Energy Agency and European Commission organised an event and released 10 recommendations for all to “Playing [their] part: How to save money, reduce reliance on Russian energy, support Ukraine and help the planet”.
Several projects working on the topic of energy communities gathered in the event “From setting up energy communities to making them thrive: what are the tools available?” on April 26. They can only confirm the willingness of citizens to join in such initiatives becoming prosumers and reinforcing their energy citizenship, trying to move away from fluctuating energy prices. With the ongoing war in Ukraine, inequalities are rising together with energy prices: we need to ensure social justice, as was highlighted by keynote speaker Dimitris Tsenekis from Friends of the Earth, coordinator of the European Community Power Coalition.The 9 projects have developed tools to support users at various stages – while starting a project or needing to get more people involved. In total, 17 speakers presented 18 tools and demonstrated that the resources are at hand: guidebooks, digital tools, capacity building activities, with a focus on various energy sources and targeting different audiences.
The spotlight on energy communities is still quite young – especially on the legislative side, and the event showed that there are indeed multiple types of energy communities which can vary significantly based on a variety of factors. People, to be engaged and make use of the presented tools, need energy literacy: projects are also providing resources in that aspect.
The projects therefore recognised the need to facilitate access to the tools further than the research community, and ensure they reach the people who might need them – focus for this needs to be put on breaking the language barrier and adapting to national / regional contexts. One idea could be to make the tools open access for replication and make sure the content is well categorised and searchable by country, with the objective to ensure they are exploited well after the projects end. They could for instance be adopted by local/regional/national bodies and governments that can further use/develop them. What do users need? We learned that they want simple and easy to use tools, without many steps or too much information to enter, for instance they supported assessment tools to assess the economic viability of a specific/local solution. H2020-funded projects are research projects and while they need to provide tools that can be directly implemented and acknowledge the limitations of the existing regulation (technical, legal or organisational) they also have a responsibility to test potential solutions and push the envelope on what is currently not yet regulated.
BECoop presented 4 tools developed in the first 18 months of the project, the latest released being the Knowledge Exchange Platform. This new one-stop shop lifts collaboration barriers across regions and sectors and hosts a set of resources in the field of community bioenergy heating, freely accessible:
- A network of interest for stakeholders and experts to share knowledge and expertise with BECoop in key deployment stages, including validation, networking and knowledge exchange, comprising a forum,
- Bioenergy community cases with an observatory/atlas of RESCoops active in the field of bioenergy,
- A knowledge repository: an online source of information, tools and services in the field of community bioenergy heating,
- And access to all BECoop tools.
The platform facilitates cross-regional network dialogue and knowledge exchange among community stakeholders. It fosters more networking and collaboration with no commercial interest. Expected users are technical experts, RESCoops, policymakers, investors, industry and business stakeholders. This platform for potential cooperation of relevant stakeholders from the field of community bioenergy is not reserved to experts, its goal being to gather people across the community bioenergy value chain. It will allow early stage RESCoops to pool the expertise of their peers already being successful, like the collaborative nature of the RESCoops concept suggests. https://becoop-kep.eu/
After event material can be accessed at the following link, including the full event recording, presentations, and a briefing showcasing all tools and projects: https://www.becoop-project.eu/project-news/after-event-material-from-setting-up-energy-communities-to-making-them-thrive-what-are-the-tools-available/