Empowering energy communities: Recommendations for a sustainable future

12 March 2024

Empowering energy communities: Recommendations for a sustainable future

Energy communities stand as catalysts for social cohesion, contributing to local and regional value creation, providing affordable and stable energy prices, and directing profits towards the most vulnerable in their communities. Despite these noble goals, reaching these vulnerable groups remains a challenge, limiting the full potential of their social impact.

In the last five years, positive strides have been made in EU legislation, providing a significant boost to the energy community movement. Recognizing energy communities as distinct energy market actors, the EU has acknowledged their local focus and commitment beyond profit-making. The acceleration of permitting for renewable projects and the mainstreaming of solar energy installations on buildings could potentially be transformative for renewable energy communities, especially those utilising solar panels.

However, for energy communities to fully fulfill their crucial social roles, they require robust support. Here are several key recommendations for EU-level action from Sun4All experience:

Recommendation 1: The European Commission should condition the Energy Communities Facility or other dedicated funding programmes for energy communities to the redistribution of social and local benefits based on specific criteria. This includes considerations such as the number of low-income households involved, engagement of local businesses and associations, and the share of profits or energy savings distributed within the local community.

Recommendation 2: The EU should introduce green public procurement rules to facilitate the involvement of municipalities in energy community projects. This initiative aims to promote the allocation of EU funds to municipal staff engaged in fostering the participation of vulnerable households in energy communities.

Recommendation 3: The European Commission should ensure that Member States report on their plans to support the social contribution of energy communities in their National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs), particularly amid ongoing plan reviews.

Recommendation 4: The EU should encourage Member States to design funding programmes specifically targeting energy communities. These programmes should align with the ambitions outlined in the EU Solar Strategy.

Recommendation 5: The EU should encourage Member States to adapt their enabling framework on energy communities. This adaptation should support and incentivize energy communities to engage in energy justice activities or fulfill social criteria. Examples include reducing membership fees for vulnerable groups, redistributing profits/energy within and outside of the communities to vulnerable groups or social projects, and collaborating with social housing providers or local social services.

By implementing these recommendations, the EU can play a pivotal role in ensuring the success of energy communities, allowing them to thrive and make a meaningful impact on social justice and sustainable energy practices. For more information and recommendations, consult the Policy brief “The EU framework on energy communities” drafted by the Jacques Delors Institute for Sun4All.

Image by "AbsolutVision on Unsplash"

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This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement N°101032239.