What is a RENCOP ?
The Co2mmunity partners will organise Renewable Energy Co-operative Partnerships, in short RENCOP’s, in their respective home countries. RENCOPs are partnerships that can include citizens, authorities, businesses, and academia. The basic functional set-up is comprised of communities, coordinators, and experts. Every RENCOP is different, but they all aim to implement renewable energy projects that one person or group alone could not manage. Maybe you know of an example in your home country as well. The partners of Co2mmunity are establishing RENCOP’s across the Baltic Sea Region to learn from each other about the opportunities and pitfalls of co-operative renewable energy project development.
Involving CE Stakeholders in each Partner Region
Working cooperatively among diverse stakeholders, as for example in a RENCOP can be a challenging endeavour. As part of our project we have developed different tools for getting an overview of stakeholders and managing a RENCOP. The aim is to support the development of more local and regional RENCOPs.
Current Status of Development
The RENCOP’s are all at different stages of development and this site will be updated as our approach develops. Below you can find a list providing more detail and an interactive map listing the roject partners in each country.
When you ask a Danish person “What is a RENCOP?” they might say: fællesskaber med fokus på vedvarende energi. As we do not all speak Danish, we have provided additional information on the Danish Co2mmunity RENCOPs below. Middelfart Municipalities strategy for RENCOP composition is often to explore possibilities. The encouragement to work with citizens is due to political interest in sustainable development with citizens. The Council has a tradition in seeking results more than strategies. The stakeholders were identified in different ways, some were identified as stakeholders, because they are “usual suspects”, well established players in energy transition. Others were found by public announcements and some come by themselves. All the stakeholders were analyzed with a stakeholder mapping tool developed for the Co2mmunity project. The foci of the CE projects have been chosen in different ways. Some were fixed in advance and others were developed in the process. The CE project “Common purchase of heat pumps” for example was fixed in advance and some CE project evolved out of ideas and discussions more spontaneously, like “Sol over Brenderup”.
RENCOP – Common Purchase of Heat Pumps
To promote the transition to neutral heating in private homes, Middelfart Municipality is running a campaign to inform citizens on the possibility to purchase heat pumps collectively. By purchasing as a group, the citizens can reduce the investment cost of the heat pumps.
Middelfart Municipality offers support and advice for the citizens. For example by helping to find different suppliers and ensuring that the whole process goes forward. In the end, the citizens of course still have to decide for themselves, which offer they want to take.
The common purchase of heat pumps takes place twice a year, in spring and in autumn. The common purchase of heat pumps taking place in autumn is arranged in collaboration with the triangle municipalities, who are associated partners in Co2mmunity and the collaboration is a witness of spreading, and sharing, experiences with Community Energy projects.
The third round of common purchase is in progress right now and the fourth round is planned together with the associated partner municipalities for October 2019.
RENCOP Green City – Brenderup
The citizens of the village Brenderup decided that they want to support the green transition. Currently Middelfart Municipality and some citizens from Brenderup are working on mapping the possibilities to make Brenderup a Green City. The first goal is already clear: To become self-sufficient with CO2 neutral electricity by using photovoltaics.
The citizens of Brenderup have been working on realizing a large solar park with the goal to supply the city with green electricity. In order to be included in a tender for financial support, the citizens of Brenderup had to submit the project idea for the solar park to the independent, public company called Energinet that operates the Danish transmission grid. The project idea proposal was submitted on the 1st of November 2018.
The tender decision was made on the 9th of November 2018, granting Brenderup with financial support of 10 øre/kW over 20 years. The solar park is planned to cover an area of 20.000 km2 and approximately 1/3 of the electricity consumption in Brenderup.
RENCOP – Termonet
By combining existing technology in a new way we can increase the district heating coverage in Denmark from 64% to nearly 100%. This is done by fusing collective organizations known from district heating companies with individual geothermal heat pumps. With the great advantage of using low-pressure and low-temperature grids, this is done with help from a supply network based on heat absorbing vertical and horizontal plastic tubes. We call this network Termonet which can be used for both heating and cooling. This is an “Expert” RENCOP including the energy companies TREFOR and EWII production.
On Monday the 19th of November 2018, a meeting between TREFOR and Middelfart Municipality was held in order to discuss the different possible ownership models of Termonet. Furthermore, something called “Club Termonet” was set in motion, with its purpose to assemble stakeholders and other interested parties and to spread and develop the idea of Termonet.
Føns – The First Movers
Føns Local Heating Plant is Denmark’s smallest district heating plant. It has been operating since October 1st 2015 and supplies 46 households with around 400 kW heat, saving 280 tons of CO2.
In 2012, long before CO2mmunity, Føns started the process of finding a heating supply solution for the village. This resulted in a small district heating plant powered by wood chips. During the process of finding a common heating supply for the village, many challenges appeared, but in the end, Føns got their district heating plant.
The project got its inspiration from the city of Samsø, which has a small district heating plant. Føns was able to secure the necessary number of connected users by charging a small connection fee. After successfully implementing a small district heating plant, Føns is still not finished. The small village is working on becoming even greener as they are working on new and inventive ideas.
Indslev – Large Scale Heat Pump
Indslev is one of four cities, chosen as case cities for the ATES project. The aim of ATES is to analyze the technical and economic possibilities of a low temperature distribution system for common supply of individual heat pumps.
In Estonia, the development of the community energy is still at a relatively early stage comparing to such countries as Denmark or Germany. The first attempt to establish energy cooperatives took place in 2015 and 2016 when the Energy Cooperatives Mentor Programme was implemented by Estonian Development Fund. The Estonian Energy Cooperatives Mentor Programme was funded by ERDF and supports Estonian start-ups and their development through workshops, peer-to-peer learning, and mentorship programs. The programme included ten CE projects. Legislative gaps and obstacles to CE were identified in the programme and were in part rectified by national law in the last years.
Currently, the Tartu Regional Energy Agency organises local RENCOP activities in Estonia. Due to the current situation and the overall relatively low level of awareness and preparedness in the field of energy cooperatives in Estonia the main activities and objectives of Estonian RENCOP are:
- Increasing the awareness of citizens, local municipalities, communities about the possibilities of community energy cooperatives. RENCOP shares the information about the benefits of cooperative production and consumption of energy, different technologies, opportunities for communities.
- Spotting the stakeholders and interested communities to involve in to the RENCOP activities in future and the community energy issue in general.
- Working with specific CE initiative
The target group are rural communities and associations of individual apartment buildings’ residents. The first RENCOP meeting was held in May 2018. The workshop spread ideas and benefits of CE projects. Furthermore, knowledge on CE and cooperatives in general was shared. The aim was to initiate new projects, provide expert knowledge and help to build a network among practitioners.
The knowledge shared included benefits of CE, activities for realising a CE project, lessons learned from the Estonian Energy Cooperatives Mentoring Programme and a crowd funding model. The second part was very concrete as leaders from existing cooperatives shared their experiences. The last part formed a discussion on CE obstacles and how to overcome such obstacles for project realization. The RENCOP has a focus on experts as drivers of new projects as the interest among citizens was low to begin with. Thereby, most of the experts can be sourced from TREA. In future this is expected to change to establish community driven energy projects as well.
In December 2018, for example, TREA engaged with the community of Mõisamaa. The citizens there wish to make their energy supply independent and sustainable. TREA is currently collecting and evaluating data to identify options for the community. TREA’s RENCOP experts has also visited eco-communities and shared the information and knowledge in the general meeting of Estonian eco-communities in January 2019. Simultaneously, TREA has identified the local municipalities as important stakeholders and therefore paid attention to disseminating information and raising awareness at this level. RENCOP experts visited and contacted with some municipalities, more local municipalities will be contacted in the nearest future. By March 2019, two CE initiatives had joined the Estonian RENCOP and now participate actively.
The need for RENCOP-like entities has clearly emerged from the activities. Potential communities that would have an interest in producing their own energy do not have enough knowledge of the possibilities of creating and managing energy cooperatives, and the complexity of legal space and lack of awareness of funding opportunities raises hesitations and fears. The free support and expertise of the RENCOP experts in such a situation is very important.
RENCOP in Finnish is: ‘uusiutuvan energian yhteisöhankkeita edistävät kumppanuus’. There are two RENCOPs developing in Finland, namely in South Ostrobothnia and in the region of Uusima around Helsinki.
Expert-driven RENCOP of South Ostrobothnia
In South Ostrobothnia, an expert driven RENCOP has been formed in the beginning of 2018 to further the development of renewable energy projects in the area. The responsibility for the management of the South Ostrobothnia RENCOPs is divided between regional partner organisations Thermopolis Ltd. – Energy Agency of South Ostrobothnia and Regional Council of South Ostrobothnia. The large amount of active local communities, such as village associations around the region form an attractive environment for developing CE projects together with the experts. The first objective of the expert driven RENCOP in South Ostrobothnia was to increase the knowledge and discussion on community energy projects among the RENCOP members, and this way increase their capability to enhance and foster these projects among their own work. An ambitious topic of micro-combined heat and power generation (CHP) with its new technological solutions was chosen in the hopes of making a real change and thus to accelerate the energy transition. In addition, the expert-driven RENCOP acts as a catalyst in forming renewable energy projects connected to one of the following: biomass, biogas, solar energy or geothermal energy. Throughout the meetings of the expert-driven RENCOP, the objective emerged to organize several open-RENCOPs for citizens in the region in order to distribute knowledge on community energy and to help forward individual community energy projects. In rural areas the most important stakeholder groups are village communities and in urban areas the focus is on housing companies.
Together, the Co2mmunity partner organisations have planned the RENCOP work in the area, organised RENCOP meetings and given presentations at the RENCOP events as well as chaired the meetings. Several stakeholders have been involved not only in the expert workshops but also in the community engagement processes. For instance, the development office of the municipality of Alavus was involved in the sunny-Alavus project organised in 2018 which provided the citizens of Alavus municipality a chance to get information on solar energy and to participate in a common purchase of solar panels. Similarly in the beginning of 2019 a solar energy evening was organised for citizens and entrepreneurs together with the municipality of Ilmajoki. Cooperation had a crucial role also in the case of organising a resource-efficiency evening for villages in the autumn of 2018 in Lappajärvi, where the local LEADER group (Local Action Group, LAG) Aisapari with its “To the villages” project was the co-organiser of the event.
The Co2mmunity partners have identified local communities in various ways to present and discuss the potentials for local CE (Community Energy) projects. Also, Thermopolis Ltd. – Energy Agency of South Ostrobothnia and Regional Council of South Ostrobothnia have been spreading the news on CE and their willingness to support certain CE projects at local events (fairs, village events) and in the media. Also, local papers and news have been followed carefully for leads on RE CE needs for certain groups of people). Last but not least, street working was used as a tactic for following leads on possible CE projects that came from conversation with some stakeholders in the area.
Helsinki RENCOP Development
In Helsinki, the RENCOP work is focused on stimulating solar electricity projects throughout apartment buildings. There is high interest across Finland by the housing companies established by the apartment owners (the condominiums), towards solar electricity in the apartment buildings. However, even with such a high interest, there is still very few installations. There are nearly 90 000 housing companies across Finland and over 2.6 million people living in apartment buildings (about 50 % of the households).
In Helsinki, the RENCOP is an expert-driven group where solar energy experts, solution providers, and other key stakeholders work towards identifying barriers and key mechanisms supporting the housing companies in acquiring solar electricity. The plan is to utilize the expert group’s support and encourage and support renewable energy projects in the Helsinki region.
The RENCOP coordinator is Green Net Finland. The group was established in the beginning of 2018, and the kick-off meeting was organized in January 2018. The work initially focused on providing impartial and easily accessible information on solar electricity, identifying good examples and cases in Finland and internationally. Furthermore, the RENCOP organised information events and seminars for apartment owners about solar electricity, providing information on both technological and economical aspects. A first example of such events was a breakfast on solar PV for housing companies which took place in August 2018. There Aalto University presented its results from a survey showing that Finnish citizens living in housing companies wish to make community energy happen. The event even garnered national media attention.
It became clear that there is a gap in the information needed for individual housing association to make an informed decision on the provision of heat and electricity. In response, the main objective of the Uusimaa expert RENCOP is now to create a dynamic energy data analysis tool for on-site property renewable energy generation, till the end of the Co2mmunity project. The tool will be able to model hybrid energy systems of solar panels and ground source heat pumps for appartment buildings and blocks. Based on such assessments energy contracting becomes a possible tool for the acquisition of financing as a business case can be generated. By including the heating system in the assessment an important step towards a broader energy transition is made, as according to the Finnish Minister for Housing, Energy and the Environment Mr. Tiilikainen, only 47% of heating energy in Finland is sourced from renewables compared to 88% in electricity.
RENCOP in German would sound something like this: Kooperative Partnerschaft für Erneuerbare Energien. The German RENCOP in the Rendsburg-Eckernförde district is organised by Energiebürger.SH, the Co2mmunity partner in Germany.
Energiebürger.SH engages people to participate actively in the German Energy Transition. Switching to renewable energies and climate protection are global issues that many people are itching to deal with locally. Therefore not only a great leap but also many small steps need to be taken. So how is it possible to make a change locally? The education and project initiative Energiebürger.SH is designed to help citizens and people engaged in communal politics who wish to contribute to the energy transition process within their municipality and region. For mor info also check out their flyer.
Energiebürger SH is currently engaged in the county of Rendsburg-Eckernförde to establish a RENCOP. Rendsburg-Eckernförde has is politically committed to the Energy Transition, and has also published a climate concept for the region, the ‘Klimaschutzkonzept Kreis Rendsburg-Eckernförde’. Our goal with the RENCOP in the area is to strengthen and empower citizens to take an active role in the energy transition. We have a double-tracked strategy, on one hand are we hosting seminars targeting citizens and honorary appointed politicians in the Region to inform about, possibilities and potentials in initiating CE projects. We have started with “Wind seminars”, which are to be followed by presenting other sources of renewable production of energy (electricity and heat). These seminars are organised to show that the transformation is technically feasible and, although constrained by the current Federal legislation, viable. Our second aim, and main challenge, is to build a broader societal acceptance for the energy transition. Therefore, in the build-up of our RENCOP, our aim is to forge new relationships to mobilise new civil society actors to become engaged in the energy transition. An interesting emergence has been the “Fridays for future” initiative, which like in many other places, is mobilising young people to engage in the climate debate.
A politically challenging issue is the currently halting expansion of wind energy. The public planning authorities in Schleswig-Holstein are currently in the process of drawing up new spatial plans to ensure an orderly development of wind power plants in the state. This is a participatory process. Therefore, to engage municipalities and citizens in the RENCOP area energiebürger.sh hosted a regional planning meeting regarding wind energy developments for the state of Schleswig-Holstein on the 4th December 2018. Approximately 40 people attended this meeting including citizens, lawyers, and ministry representatives for regional wind planning. The aim of the seminar was to inform municipalities and citizens on the status of public land use planning for wind energy (Presentation1), as well as the possibilities and procedures to give input into the spatial planning process (Presentation2). A follow-up meeting took place on the 14th of March, 2019. The focus of the second seminar was to inform municipalities and citizens about opportunities to strengthen local or regional value chains while promoting RE through citizens. More information can be found at www.energiebuerger.sh and in our download section.
Latvia has a high share of RE in its total energy mix. Hydropower accounts for 53% of the total power generation capacity and supplied 33% of Latvia’s electricity in 2015 (IEA, 2017). Biomass has replaced fossil fuels in electricity and heat generation while overall consumption increase so that the share of oil has remained at 34%. A positive characteristic is the wide application of district heating systems. However, most DH companies are owned by local municipalities, so that the community energy approach is not well-known and there are just a few successful examples.
The Riga Planning Region is working to establish a RENCOP in the Marupe municipality. Main problems and myths regarding renewable energy projects in Latvia and in the Marupe municipality are that people often believe that:
- Renewable energy is expensive
- Profits are insignificant as compared to the investment
- There is a relatively small number of sunny days in Latvia, therefore the use of solar energy is expensive and unprofitable
- Renewable energy projects should always be co-financed from the EU or other support instruments
In September 2018, a survey was conducted in Marupe which showed a generally positive attitude towards RE. However, overall respondents were more informed about different efficient lighting options, than RE and other energy efficiency measures. As a follow-up activity a seminar has been organised for citizens and local NGO’s. In the seminar discussion on RENCOPs and local projects took place. Some possible projects identified in the seminar inlcude solar energy for apartment buildings, solar street lights and a monitoring and education project around existing projects to provide continues motivation and education of local citizens.
A first meeting with an association of apartment owners in a building has been organised. Support and expert knowledge for the initiative will be provided as part of the Co2mmunity project, for example financing options from national subsidies are being investigated. An actual hurdle is the low electricity tariffs in Latvia which makes it hard for RE to compete regarding electricity generation.
In 2016, RES accounted for about 25.5% of final energy consumption in Lithuania. Accordingly, consumption of electricity from RES was about 17%, in total heat consumption – about 46%, and in the transport sector – about 4%. A significant share of resources in energy production comes from wind and biofuels (solid and liquid). A problem is the lack of knowledge and regulatory frameworks for CE. Generally, Lithuanian communities are not familiar with the concept of CE and usually command insufficient management knowledge, which discourages communities from taking on energy business projects. Increasing the number of small electricity producers from renewable sources requires different conditions for consumption, storage, distribution and sale of the energy produced. Consequently, communities need education. In addition, it is particularly important to define and regulate the concept of electricity-producing users, so-called prosumers. Clear and understandable requirements combined with favorable operating conditions, could be a real incentive to develop renewable energy projects in communities. Lastly, many communities require monetary support to make the necessary upfront investments.
KREA has organized a broad information campaign to publicize the Co2mmunity project and its goals. Special attention was paid to rural communities and Local Action Groups in the regions. A project presentation event took place in Kaunas, where representatives from more than 20 communities were gathered. These included representatives of home associations, representatives of municipalities (elderships), science and technology specialists, suppliers and installers of renewable energy equipment. We were working with almost all communities, but lack of community initiatives and specific knowledge were the main barrier to creating an energy community. KREA is actively working with more than 10 communities, but lack of intentness and initiative in them does not create favourable conditions for the creation of the energy community.
An example are the activities in the „GRAMANČIA“ community center in Pagramantis. There, Co2mmunity works with the local community to establish a rooftop PV system. The Gramančia Center of the Pagramantis community was registered in 2005. In 2017 the idea of establishing of community house arose and was then followed by implementation. A part of a building was renovated for the purpose to the community’s activities and the living of its elderly members, for providing healthcare, nursing services and giving opportunities for active communication.
CE thereby becomes a tool to unite the Pagramantis population and strengthen community spirit. Furthermore, the energy project is tied to the community’s well-being by protecting their rights, to maintain and develop infrastructure and projects, and to develop cultural and sporting life in the village. Lastly, CE gives suggestions to local and regional authorities.
For our Polish visitors an explanation of RENCOP in Polish ‘otwarta grupa robocza integrująca ekspertów, przedstawicieli klastrów energii oraz wszystkich zainteresowanych przyspieszeniem rozwoju energetyki obywatelskiej w Polsce w formule klastrów energii.’ The Co2mmunity partner implementing the Polish RENCOP activities is the Foundation for Sustainable Energy (FNEZ).
A specialty of the Polish energy transition are the energy clusters. In the amendment to the Law on Renewable Energy in 2016, energy clusters were introduced as a cooperation between natural persons, legal persons, universities and local government units for generating and balancing the demand, distribution or trade in electricity. Inpractice, clusters are local coalitions stretching to up to 5 municipalities, all kinds of energy-related activities and actors from all spheres of society. As such, clusters are ideal for promoting CE in the transition to RE as they might include individuals, housing associations or other community organisations. The approach is to create a working group on the meso-level , including local clusters and working towards creating appropriate frameworks on the national level.
At the beginning of September 2018, the RENCOP kick-off meeting took place in Warsaw. It was opportunity to hear inspiring stories of energy clusters and join discussion with experts on future of the community energy market in Poland. The following meetings were divided into various topics such as: legislation, financing, public acceptance, presence in the power system and more. Updates on recent activities and upcoming events can also be found on the FNEZ webpage.
If you would like to be a member of this RENCOP group and support an energy transition focussing on local energy potentials – do not hesitate to join us. Please contact: email@example.com
Sweden has a national goal to have 100% renewable electricity production in 2040. This means that many new renewable energy plants will be built over the next decades. Many of these will be large, but also small-scale projects are needed and play an important role to reach the postulated goal. The Energy Agency for Southeast Sweden is working to support small community-driven projects in the counties of Blekinge, Kalmar, and Kronoberg. Their strategy is to provide expert inputs from companies and experienced communities to housing cooperatives. The advantage is that the housing cooperatives are existing community structures. Also the potential is large as approximately one fifth of Swedes lives in the approximately 1 000 000 housing cooperatives in Sweden. While cooperatives have a long-standing tradition, especially in the agricultural and retail sectors in Sweden challenges to energy cooperatives are that the overall national support framework and the grid regulations are not yet adopted to community-driven PV. In the last years however, the price decrease for solar PV, a government support of 30% of the investment costs and a tax reduction for electricity sold to the grid have put solar PV within the realm of reasonable investments for housing associations. To support as many housing cooperatives as possible, the appraoch of the Energy Agency for Southeast Sweden is that of an expert RENCOP.
The RENCOP is active since 2017 and several meetings and workshops were held. In these workshops:
- Up to 200 interested citizens were present
- Citizens were informed on possibilities for communal purchases of PV cells and new rebates in tax law
- Open sessions were held where experts and citizens came together to explore new options
- Expert knowledge from the Lycksenberg cooperative, Linnaeus University, the association of energy trading companies, local grid operators and generation technology (biomass, PV,…) experts were provided
These activities are being continued with open meetings throughout the region. Experience shows that especially the contact with other housing associations that already have experience with a solar PV installation, is a good way to stimulate additional projects. Caution is in place when inviting providers of PV panels and services as the RENCOP organiser should retain its credibility as an honest broker for the interests of the citizens.