Renewable energy cooperatives are groups of citizens who organise themselves to collectively take action on renewable energy or energy efficiency. A closer look at existing REScoops reveals that they are diverse in terms of ownership, governance, organisational structure, scale of activities, type of activities, energy sources used, financing mix, etc. They are most commonly distinguished from one another based on their size, projects and activities.
Some REScoops are relatively small. They have fewer members and pursue only small-scale renewable energy projects (typically solar panels). Other REScoops have many members but have yet to fully launch their first project. There are also very large REScoops. Ecopower (Belgium) for instance has almost 50,000 members, and owns 17 wind turbines, 3 hydro power installations, 320 solar panels and 1 cogeneration installation using rape seed oil. Experience shows that it gets easier to convince members once you have your first project up and running, or when members are given the opportunity to use the energy generated.
REScoops typically invest in projects that generate energy from local renewable energy sources. Some REScoops only invest in wind turbines (Wind Coops) while others restrict their investment to solar panels (Solar Coops). Many REScoops, however, pursue a combination of these, and rely on various renewable energy sources to produce energy. After all, energy is still needed when the sun doesn't shine or the wind doesn’t blow. Bronsgroen (Belgium) has invested in wind, solar and biomass projects in order to improve its energy mix. Some REScoops restrict their investments to renewable energy, but many also deal with the issue of energy efficiency. Courant d'Air (Belgium) for example is using part of its revenues to finance energy efficiency measures in public buildings.
Most REScoops produce renewable energy. Some only finance these projects while others develop them from scratch. There are also REScoops that handle their further operation. Some REScoops also supply renewable energy to their members. Enercoop (France) for example is the only renewable energy supplier in France. There are also REScoops that handle their own balancing activities, while others even run their own distribution grid. EWS (Germany) for instance owns the distribution grid and is helping others to follow that example. Finally, some REScoops help their members and local authorities take energy efficiency measures in their homes or in public buildings.