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Challenges for community energy in Pagramantis (Lithuania)

Background: What does community energy look like in Lithuania?

In Lithuania, the description of an energy community and the principles of its operation are defined by law: “Renewable energy community means any independent legal entity with the purpose of operating a non-profit organization that owns, develops, consumes, stores and sells energy from renewable sources in nearby renewable energy installations.” 

The main goal set by the national energy independence strategy is to provide 45% of energy consumption with renewable energy by 2030. For example, collective electricity production in solar power plants is not suffi­ciently developed in Lithuania, however, very favorable conditions have been created for individuals and legal entities to become prosum­ers, with increased quotas and flexible pricing for grid access.

Through the Co2mmunity program, an expert-driven RENCOP (Renewable ENergy Cooperative Partnership) has been established in Lithuania with members including two universities, representatives from munici­palities, and national associations (renewable energy, solar energy), and three private companies engaged in renewable energy tech­nology. The RENCOP has focused on raising awareness of community energy projects and clarifying social, financial, and ecological benefits. 

What are the challenges for community energy in Pagramantis?

Since 2018, the formation of an energy community in the municipality of Pagramantis has been in the making. As of now, the community continues to conduct electricity-consumption studies and source financial sources for its Photovoltaic renewable energy project.

However, the Pagramantis community is not a business entity, but rather a consortium of persons who are living in this village – while being registered as a (non-commercial) legal entity. This is the most important issue regarding the definition of community energy: as part of the law, it is required to establish a legal commercial entity, i.e. a non-profit public organization. That means, the profit must go to the benefit of the shareholders, but no financial gain is possible for the investors. So while all shareholders in the community invested their own money, the profit can solely be reinvested in the development of the solar park or other ways to improve the wellbeing of the entire community. This is the reason why the model is not business-friendly.

What are the next steps?

Our local partners continue to work with urban and rural communities to find more pilot cases, educate about the possible benefits, and develop renewable energy projects in general. They are in on-going communication with public administration representatives and offer informative webinars for housing associations about solar PV models and government-supported financing options.

What is still needed is a clearer and more business-friendly definition of a renewable energy community, its objectives, and area of operation. Furthermore, the partners are working on a better strategy to identify and support possible energy communities in apartment communities, as well as more ways of raising the interest of municipalities. Lastly, greater support and participation are needed regarding the granting of bank loans and the electricity distribution network operators.

Progress for the Estonian Pilot: PV panels for a kindergarden

Active preparations are underway in Tartu, Estonia for the establishment of a solar park to be installed on the renovated Pääsupesa kindergarden. Close cooperation between the city and the kindergarten has led to efficient planning, with experts from the Tartu Region Energy Agency (TREA) now working on the cooperative’s operational model.
 
Next month, TREA will offer the first public information day which will focus on future plans, and specifically on this pilot project created by Energize Co2mmunity. The aim is to reach all ages, raise awareness and highlight the benefits of such energy cooperatives.
 
Several exciting events are planned up until Autumn 2021, and during this time the residents of Tartu will have the opportunity to become members of the newly established energy cooperative.

Energize Co2mmunity represented at the national forum of the Horizon 2020 project (Latvia)

At the end of January, Energize Co2mmunity expert Ilgvars Francis from Riga Planning Region represented our project in the Latvia national forum of the Horizon 2020 project “COME RES 9” (Community Energy for the uptake of renewable energy sources).
 
The presentation included successes of Co2mmunity in Marupe municipality and the development and outlook of the Energize Co2mmunity project. The biggest focus was on cooperating with energy policymakers to develop a support mechanism for renewable energy community projects in Latvia – one of our goals with Energize Co2mmunity. 

Webinar week

Last week, our partners from Energize Co2mmunity came together digitally in 5 days of learning, exchange and planning 🤓.

We hosted workshops in communication psychology, social media and storytelling and laid the basis for our communication steps in the coming months. In the transnational pairing meetings, the pilot projects from Germany & Latvia, Finland & Estonia and Lithuania & Denmark talked about their individual status quo and how they want to work together.

We are looking forward to sharing more details about the progress of our pilot pairings with you soon!

Swedish paper reports on Co2mmunity project “Byn som tar makten över elen”

On the first of January the swedish paper “Landetsfria” published a lengthy article oncommunity energy in Sweden. It touches on Kalmar Energi’s investment in Nöbble and Törneby solar parks, which was part of the Co2mmunity research. You can find the full article in swedish here

A finding of the research was, that energy in Sweden is very centralised, meaning the incentives for citizens to intitiate community energy projects are comparatively low. What surprised Henner Busch, a researcher from Lund University, most about the project’s results was how many people get involved in such projects for idealistic reasons. 

Yet their advantages are not restricted to climate benefits. Among other things, local communities can reduce their energy costs, create local jobs, strengthen local cohesion, build a more positive identity and, in some countries, receive tax revenues.

You can read more about community energy in Sweden in our handbook

European Shallow Geothermal Days 2020: Danish Partner presents Termonet solution

On the 9th of December our partner from Middelfart (Denmark) will present their Termonet solution for single family houses. A chairman of the board, Søren Andersen, will present the concept at the “European Shallow Geothermal Energy Days” that take place on 4th, 9th and 11th December 2020. The event intends to connect policy makers, professionals, and scientists to discuss ways to promote the market uptake of geothermal heat pumps as well as underground thermal energy storage. Promising  concepts and good practices from all over Europe will be introduced. They share the common aim to “operate and manage shallow geothermal in an efficient and sustainable way“.

This virtual event is organised by the European Geothermal Energy Council (EGEC), the Renewable Heating and Cooling Platform (RHC-ETIP), GEOTRAINET aisbl and Geothermal DHC COST action, with the support of the GeoERA-MUSE project, EuroGeoSurveys, GEOCOND project and EHPA.

You will find all the informations here.

 

Danish paper reports on RENCOP Føns Nærvarmes

Føns Nærvarmes is a part of an citizen empowering project, where citizens are testing heatpumps balanced with biomass boilers. This is in Denmarks newest and smallest district heating – RENCOP. A system developed by citizens and owned by citizens. It is closely followed by research , Southern University of Denmark, and knowledge will be shared. It was also part of the Co2mmunity project.

As one of the citzens puts it : “We might find new solutions that empower other citizens to use a heatpump in their system – enabling possibility to get rid of oil boilers and other fossil fuels for heating.”

You can find the full article (in danish) here.

Paper published on urban community energy initiatives: An analysis of six case studies from the Baltic Sea Region

The paper was recently published in a special issue of Energy Policy dealing with the role of community energy initiatives in the transformation of urban energy infrastructures. Besides the policy recommendations, one of the most interesting contributions of this paper is the fact that it identifies strategies community energy actors can implement to overcome contextual barriers to citizen-driven renewable energy projects.

First Partner Agreement signed

The first Community Energy Partner Agreement has been signed between Sweden (Energy Agency of Southeast Sweden) and Estonia (Tartu Regional Energy Agency TREA).

The following agreements are in preparation:

  • Germany (Heinrich-Böll Foundation Schleswig-Holstein) and Latvia (Riga Planning Region and City of Marupe), status: signing in preparation
  • Estonia (Tartu Regional Energy Agency TREA) and Finland (Green Net Finland, Regional Council of Ostrobothnia, Thermopolis Ltd – Energy Agency of South Ostrobothnia), status: signing in preparation
  • Finland (Region of Helsinki-Uusimaa) and Denmark (Middelfart municipality), status: Partner Agreement in preparation