Renewable Energy Cooperative Partnerships

What is a RENCOP ?

The Co2mmunity partners will organise Renewable Energy Co-operative Partnerships (RENCOP’s) in their respective home countries. The basic functional set-up is comprised of communities, coordinators, and experts which can for example include citizens, authorities, businesses, and academia. Every RENCOP is different, but they all aim to implement renewable energy projects which would be unmanageable by one person or group alone. 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 (BSR) to learn from one another regarding 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. Therefore different tools for getting an overview of stakeholders and managing a RENCOP have been developed as part of the Co2mmunity project. The aim is also to support the development of more local and regional RENCOP’s.

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 project 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 political interest in sustainable development has encouraged the council to work with citizens in line with its tradition of seeking results more than strategies.

Stakeholders were identified in different ways, some were identified as stakeholders, as they are “usual suspects” and well established players in energy transition. Others were found by public announcements while others came on their own out of interest and curiosity. All 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. Some CE projects such as  “Common purchase of heat pumps” were fixed in advance while other such as “Sol over Brenderup” evolved more spontaneously through sharing of ideas and discussions.

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 their investment cost for the heat pumps.

Middelfart Municipality offers support and advice for the citizens such as helping to find different suppliers and ensuring that the project development process moves forward. In the end, the citizens of course still control the direction in which the project develops and if they want to make use of an offer at all.

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. They 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 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 through the use of 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 proposal was submitted on the 1st November 2018.

The tender decision was made on the 9th 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 of thinking the district heating coverage in Denmark can increase from 64% to nearly 100%. This is done by creating collective organizations similar to district heating companies but with individual geothermal heat pumps across a neighborhood or even in each house. 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. Together, the energy companies TREFOR and EWII production and the municiaplity form an ‘expert’ RENCOP.

On Monday the 19th 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. 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. The heating plant 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’ citizens prevailed and obtained 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 that has been chosen as case city for the ATES project. The aim of the ATES project 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 compared to countries such as Denmark or Germany. The inital attempts 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 10 CE projects. Legislative gaps and obstacles to CE were identified in the programme and over the past couple of years were in part rectified by national law.

Currently, the Tartu Regional Energy Agency organises local RENCOP activities in Estonia. DAs there is a relatively low level of awareness and preparedness in the field of energy cooperatives in Estonia the main activities and objectives of this Estonian RENCOP are:

  1. 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.
  2. Spotting the stakeholders and interested communities to involve in to the RENCOP activities in future and the community energy issue in general.
  3. Working with specific CE initiative

The first RENCOP meeting was held in May 2018 targeting rural communities and associations of individual apartment buildings’ residents.  The workshop spread ideas and benefits of CE projects in addition to knowledge on CE and cooperatives in general. 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. This was then followed by leaders from existing cooperatives sharing 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, TREA engaged with the community of Mõisamaa. The citizens 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 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 where as 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 for 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 projects. Furthermore, 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 particular CE projects at local events (fairs, village events) and in the media. Also, local papers and news as well as leads from individual conversations have been followed carefully to find possibilities for CE projects.

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 are 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 not only in Finland, but also 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. At the event, 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 apartment 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. Including the heating system in the assessment is an important step towards a broader energy transition, 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 has the aim to enhance civic involvement: to inform citizens and honorary politicians about climate change, regional impacts and opportunities relating to renewable energies, as well as to engages people to actively participate in the German Energy Transition. It is a union of various educational institutions and the Church, Nordkirche. The Böll foundation of Schleswig-Holstein is an agency for cross-party independent political education and is one of the key actors in Energiebürger.SH. The foundation strives to foster democracy and participation among citizens, and to empower people to become active in the energy transition. 

Switching to renewable energies and climate protection are global issues that many people are itching to deal with on a local level. Therefore many small steps need to be taken and not only great leaps. So how is it possible to make a local change? 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 more info also check out their flyer.

Energiebürger SH is seen as a strategic partnership for fostering the energy transition and is currently engaged in the county of Rendsburg-Eckernförde to establish a RENCOP. Rendsburg-Eckernförde is politically committed to the Energy Transition and has published a climate concept for the region, the ‘Klimaschutzkonzept Kreis Rendsburg-Eckernförde’. Our goal with the RENCOP is to strengthen and empower citizens to take an active role in the energy transition in their community.

To help inform and empower not only citizens but also politicians, we are organising seminars regarding the possibilities and potentials in initiating CE projects. Government halted the expansion of wind energy until 2020, which has been a politically challenging topic in the region. Therefore we feel that there is a need to disseminate information on the issue. We started with “Wind seminars”, and additional seminars surrounding other sources of renewable energy production such as solar and biothermal will be presented. Two seminars have already been conducted and are as follows:

  • Political Planning Processes (Flyer): 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 development 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.
  • Strengthening Regional Value Chains (Flyer): The focus of the second seminar was to inform municipalities and citizens about opportunities to strengthen local or regional value chains while promoting CE projects. The mayor of Klixbüll, Werner Schweizer, gave his insights on how the municipality of Klixbüll was tackling the challenges of the energy transition, turning the transformation into an opportunity for the region.

Our second aim, and main challenge, is to broaden acceptance for the energy transition. Therefore, in the build-up of our RENCOP, we seek to build new relationships to mobilise civil society for the energy transition. The emergence of the “Fridays for Future” initiative is currently creating a momentum in which young people are becoming engaged in the climate debate and which has also made a presence in our workshop.

We want to establish new relationships to mobilise civil society actors to become engaged in the energy transition. We organised a scenario workshop on possible futures (Flyer) relating to the energy transition in Schleswig-Holstein, focusing on implications for the county of Rendsburg-Eckernförde. This workshop was held in cooperation with the county of Rendsburg and various civil society groups from the region including Heimatbund, Landfrauen and the Volkshochschulen. A wide range of citizens of various age and background joined in the workshop. We are currently in the process of developing a frame in which the ideas gathered in the workshop can jointly be followed-up.

More information can be found at www.energiebuerger.sh and in our download section.

Latvia has a high share of RE in its national energy mix. Hydropower accounts for 53% of the total power generation capacity and supplied about 33% of Latvia’s electricity in 2015 (IEA, 2017). Biomass has replaced fossil fuels for electricity and heat generation while the overall consumption has increased. This means that the share of oil has remained at 34%. A positive characteristic is the wide application of district heating (DH) systems. However, most DH companies are owned by local municipalities. As a result, many other community energy approaches are not well-known. Nonetheless, there are some successful examples.

The Riga Planning Region is working to establish a RENCOP in the Marupe Municipality. Main problems and myths regarding RE 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. A seminar was organised for citizens and local NGO’s as a follow-up activity. Seminar discussions included RENCOPs and local projects taking place. Possible projects were identified in the seminar and inlcuded solar energy for apartment buildings, solar street lights and a monitoring and education project on existing projects.

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 from electricity sales is a problem as energy tariffs in Latvia are quite low. In response, the RENCOP helps with the screening of subsidies on the national level.

In 2016, RE accounted for approximately 25.5% of the final energy consumption in Lithuania. Accordingly, consumption of electricity from RE was approximately 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 produced energy. 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 RE projects in communities. Lastly, many communities require monetary support to make the necessary upfront investments.

Kaunas Regional Energy Agency (KREA) has organized a broad information campaign to publicize the Co2mmunity project and its goals. Special attention was paid to rural communities and the official Local Action Groups (LAG’s) in the regions. A project presentation event took place in Kaunas, where representatives from more than 20 communities were gathered. This included representatives of home associations, municipalities (elderships), science and technology specialists, and suppliers and installers of RE equipment. We were working with a variety of communities, but it proved difficult to create energy communities. A lack of initiative and specific knowledge were the main barriers to creating energy communities. 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 Centre in Pagramantis. There, Co2mmunity works with the local community to establish a rooftop PV system. The Gramančia Community Centre was registered in 2005. In 2017, the idea of establishing of community house arose and was then implemented. A part of a building was renovated for the purpose to the community’s activities and to improve the living condition of its elderly members, by 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. In practice, clusters are local coalitions stretching up to 5 municipalities, including 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 can 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 the future of the CE market in Poland. The following meetings were divided into various topics such as legislation, financing, public acceptance, and presence in the power system. 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: jm@fnez.pl

Sweden has a national goal to have 100% renewable electricity production by 2040. This means that many new RE 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, there is a large potential as approximately one fifth of Swedes lives in the approximately 1 000 000 aprtments organised in 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 energy generation, such as solar PV. However, in the last years, 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.

During spring 2019, the RENCOP has been reorganized. The network of energy advisers at the municipalities in Southeast Sweden has been tied to the RENCOP and will onwards form the basis of the RENCOP experts. These advisers active in all municipalities will be aware of new initiatives and can give guidance at first hand. Energy Agency for Southeast Sweden will then through Co2mmunity arrange open inspiration meetings, give detailed advice, and monitor the progress and barriers for the new initiatives.