Despite the existence of European directives on the matter, Member States are not consistent in their support of REScoops. Some implement legislation that supports the emergence of REScoops and related community energy projects, while others do just the opposite. In what follows, we will examine what is happening in Europe and highlight aspects worth mentioning.
Belgium is a densely populated country, making it hard to find good locations for wind turbines. Moreover, in most places, contracts already exist with conventional project developers, making it hard for starting REScoops to develop their own projects. There is no binding legislation in Belgium that supports community energy projects, but there are some nonbinding guidelines. The French speaking part of the country (Wallonia), “le cadre de reference”, foresees a 24.99% participation of local citizens in future wind projects. Two provinces in the Dutch speaking part of the country (Flanders) expect participation of at least 10% by local citizens and 10% by the local municipality. The 20 Belgian REScoops are grouped into two regional federations: REScoop.Vlaanderen and REScoop.Wallonie.
There are 110 REScoops in the Netherlands, where the “postcoderoos” has recently been introduced: citizens receive tax relief (0.09 euro/kWh) on their energy bill if they are a member of a local REScoop and thus produce their own energy from local renewable sources. Various REScoops have gathered under REScoopNL, the Dutch REScoop federation.
For a long time, the slow opening of the French energy market hindered the development of REScoops and very few citizen-led projects were created. Nevertheless during the last few years several changes in the legislative framework such as the Law on Solidarity-based Economy and the recent law on the Energy Transition are allowing an easier development of new REScoops. Around 60 REScoops or community energy initiatives have been created in France and today more and more citizens and local authorities are getting involved in a decentralized energy transition to renewable energy.
Germany was very progressive in the support of decentralised renewable energy. The former “Erneuerbare Energiegesetz” (EEg) provided attractive feed-in-tariffs that resulted in the growth of renewables and many REScoops. A recent study showed that there are some 800 German REScoops. Unfortunately, the German government recently implemented a tendering procedure, making it harder for starting initiatives to compete.
Thanks to a progressive government, Denmark is by far the most attractive country for REScoops. There are no less than 600 district heating cooperatives that provide their members with heat from renewables. There are also many Danish wind coops, the most famous of which is Middelgrunden, a cooperative that owns a large wind farm near Copenhagen.
The UK government reduced support for onshore wind projects, making it hard for starting community power projects. Although there is support for offshore wind projects, the size of such projects is often beyond the scope of small-scale initiatives. Today there are about 100 REScoops in the UK. The Scottish government is quite progressive when it comes to community energy. They set a 500MW target for community energy by 2020 and already reached that objective in 2015. The Scots also developed the CARES fund to support the start-up of new REScoops. The fund provides loans to community groups to finance studies examining potential projects. If these studies show that a project is not viable, the community group is not required to reimburse the money.
Despite a clear call for liberalisation, the Greek energy market is still dominated by the state-owned public power company (PPC). The PPC produces energy, controls the distribution grid and plays the role of energy supplier. On the islands that are not interconnected with the mainland, electricity is still produced using fossil fuels, making the production costs high. This production cost is partly financed by those living on the mainland. There are a number of islands where local citizens are setting up a REScoop. Watch the video to see how Sifnos wishes to keep money in the local economy.
There are many long-established REScoops in the Northern Alp region, some going back as far as one hundred years. Many REScoops produce electricity with hydro power installations. In many cases, they also own and manage the local distribution grid. These REScoops have grouped themselves under the Südtiroler Energie Verband. The first Italian cooperative green energy supplier was recently created. It supplies energy under the appealing name: “È Nostra”, which literally means “it’s our energy”.
Spanish renewables are presently facing hard times. The national government reduced support for renewable energy retroactively, making it nearly impossible for local REScoops to find good projects. In 2015 not even a single MW of wind was installed, and only 50MW (of which 25MW was owned by community energy projects). As a response to the lack of support, SOM Energia launched the campaign “Generation kWh”. Members are invited to provide a zero interest loan. The money is then used to finance new RES projects, and members can then buy electricity at cost price for at least 20 years.
Croatia has great potential RES projects and is not densely populated. Unfortunetly national legislation and unstable support schemes make it hard to develop new projects. Project developers are usually local enterpreneurs who often lack specific expertise or large foreign investors. Although community energy was endorsed through the new renewable energy law, the national government failed in setting clear community energy targets. Today there are about 15 energy cooperatives trying to develop their first projects.
Central and Eastern Europe
There are very few REScoops in Central and Eastern Europe due to a severe lack of support for renewables, and because the word “cooperative” is still associated with communism.