Unlocking the potential of local energy communities  

​Mariana Gâju

​The European Committee of the Regions asks for the removal of existing barriers that impede the full deployment of local energy communities in Europe

Local and regional authorities are key actors when it comes to bringing Europe closer to its energy and climate objectives. Energy production at the local level is crucial to foster renewable energy production, spread energy democracy and decrease energy poverty rates. Today, around 50 million households in Europe are struggling to warmth adequately (EPOV). Around €180 billion of additional investments are needed annually to achieve the EU's 2030 targets agreed in Paris, including a 40% cut in greenhouse gas emissions (from 1990 levels).

As the different aspects of the EU's clean energy package are progressively taking shape and two weeks after the European Commission's strategy to reach carbon neutrality in 2050, the European Committee of the Regions has adopted an opinion with recommendations for the full deployment of local energy communities, including energy cooperatives.

Members have adopted the opinion of rapporteur Mariana Gâju (RO/PES) on the Models of local energy ownership and the role of local energy communities in the energy transition in Europe. European cities and regions note that energy communities still face many obstacles to their development such as constraining national legal frameworks, limited access to national electricity grids and to finance and face contradictory support schemes between Member states and a general lack of political support.

The Mayor of Cumpăna in the Romanian county of Constanța, Mariana Gâju (RO/PES) said: "We believe that the future of energy production is the hands of citizens. We need to make sure that local energy communities can fully contribute to the decentralisation and democratisation of energy systems and foster sustainable economic and social development locally. Local production, distribution and consumption of energy are key to fighting energy poverty".

Cities and regions request simplified rules and administrative procedures for small renewable energy producers and local energy communities in order to ensure that they don't face discriminatory administrative burdens or costs in comparison with established energy companies.

Members call for a closer cooperation between the EU and Member States' regional and energy policies. Streamlining the various support schemes for renewable energy is essential to reach the objectives of the Energy Union and those of the Paris agreement as well as the UN Sustainable Development Goals, members recall.

The EU's assembly of cities and regions urges the EU and its Member states to provide better planning and long-term investment policies for renewable energy projects, with guaranteed financial support mechanisms so that local energy ownership can be placed on a more secure footing.

Accordingly, the CoR calls on Member States to set up dedicated finance support schemes for local energy communities, particularly during the planning and set-up phases. EU cities and regions recommend the development of grant-to-loans, guarantees and affordable credit opportunities with ready access to technical information and guidance about setting up, financing and operating community projects and innovative ownership structures. 

Representatives of local and regional authorities call on all levels of governance to improve information to citizens about the potential of local energy communities and the opportunities to participate in them. Members welcome the reference to the role of local energy communities in recent EU legislation, but ask for greater clarity and common rules in order to reap their full potential.

The CoR members recommend to local and regional authorities across Europe to identify energy communities and support their development via advisory services.

 

Background information

The European Committee of the Regions has reacted to the different aspects of the Clean Energy Package in the following opinions:  

Delivering a New Deal for Energy Consumers, rapporteur Michel Lebrun (BE/EPP), member of Viroinval Municipal Council (April 2016).

Energy Union Governance and Clean Energy, rapporteur Bruno Hranić (HR/EPP), Mayor of the Vidovec (July 2017).

Energy efficiency and buildings, rapporteur Michiel Rijsberman (NL/ALDE), Member of Flevoland Province Council (July 2017).

Renewable energy and the internal energy market in electricity, rapporteur Daiva Matonienė (LT/ECR), Member of Šiauliai City Council.

The EU Energy Poverty Observatory (EPOV) is a 40 month project that commenced in December 2016. Its principal mission is to engender transformational change in knowledge about the extent of energy poverty in Europe, and innovative policies and practices to combat it.

European Commission (March 2018). Around €180 billion of additional investments a year are needed to achieve the EU's 2030 targets agreed in Paris, including a 40% cut in greenhouse gas emissions.

Photos of the Plenary Session are available here.

Contact: David Crous | david.crous@cor.europa.eu | +32 (0) 470 88 10 37