Co2mmunity participation at the DECIDE General Assembly online panel

On May 18th Henner Busch represented the Co2mmunity project at an online panel discussion organised by the DECIDE General Assembly. Topic of interests were barriers and regulatory issues to community energy across EU Member States.

Henner talked about the differences across the Baltic Sea Region regarding community energy. For example, implementing CE projects remains difficult in countries with a soviet history. This is due to the centralised and large-scale energy production systems, as well as negative connotations to collective organisations. Here regulations will not address the hesitation of citizens to get involved in energy projects, but time and best-practice projects are more likely to result in a cultural shift in that respect.

Henner emphasized that besides a good regulatory framework, independent intermediaries have a reinforcing effect due to knowledge transfer and targeted support that make establishing new projects easier for citizens. #balticsearegion

Lithuanian partner KREA hosted a webinar about renewable energy communities

Earlier this month, Kaunas Regional Energy Agency (KREA), together with the Lithuanian Ministry of Energy, organized a webinar about renewable energy communities. Advantages, challenges, and associated obstacles were discussed in detail relating to establishing such communities.

Speaker Lina Sveklaite, senior adviser of Climate Change Management Group, presented an overview of the establishment, potential benefits, and available state support. Renewable energy expert Paulius Petrašiūnas shared information about the platform, “Powering”, which is expected to be a practical tool for establishing such communities and helping to manage their activities.

An impressive turnout of over thirty individuals attended the webinar, with representatives from local action groups, communities, NGO’s and commercial entities. These attendees actively provided questions and suggestions on how to improve the regulation surrounding renewable energy communities.

More information, in Lithuanian, can be found here

Schleswig-Holstein’s first climate protection agency

An update from our German pilot: The Rendsburg-Eckernförde district founded Schleswig-Holstein’s first climate protection agency in October 2020. Now the agency is starting its work at the Eckernförde Technology and Ecology Center (TÖZ).
It is to support the approximately 30 communities that have joined so far with ideas and applications for green projects. Sebastian Krug, who was already involved in the Co2mmunity project, is one of the responsible climate protection managers. A short video (in German) about the climate protection agency can be found here. The video will be available until June 22, 2021.

Insights into the german pilot project

Within the German pilot project, the Heinrich-Böll-Foundation Schleswig-Holstein (SH) acts as a facilitator for civil society to engage in democratic debates. They foster energy transition by empowering citizens through practice-oriented courses, building regional and local energy networks, and encouraging citizen initiatives.

The local RENCOP (renewable energy cooperative partnership) is built a little differently than in our other pilot projects. Here, it presents a regional strategic network and entails key regional civil society actors – such as the Country Women’s Association. In the following, we present to you what they have been working on.

Climate-friendly Cooking

What does cooking have to do with renewable energy, you might wonder. At first glance maybe not much, yet the way we eat can have a significant impact on the climate. That’s why the Country Women’s Association together with the Heinrich-Böll-Foundation SH formed the group “Treffpunkt des Guten Geschmacks” (meeting place for good taste) to create a cooking-app and provide people the ability to know and eat what’s good – for us, the region and the climate.

The result is a climate-friendly, seasonal, and regional cooking app that helps to reduce the individual CO2-footprint and improve working conditions in the supply chain. Long transport routes, refrigeration, and storage become almost needless by consciously choosing regional and seasonal products over imported ones. Thus, it puts a focus on the often unnoticed local diversity of fruits and vegetables and inspires people to (re-)discover, for example topinambour, wild garlic, or parsnip.

To view the recipe, click on the image.

 Providing suitable recipes for every season, the app is scheduled to be published in autumn 2021 and will invite everyone to participate, try recipes, add new ones, and exchange their tasty experiences.

To give you an inspiration, here’s a recipe that the group has tried already: Turnip with a mustard-sugar-crust. Looks tasty, doesn’t it?

Raised garden bed at Anscharpark, Kiel

Another project that was born out of the local network is a raised garden bed at Anscharpark, Kiel. Jochen Bock, the gardener from Nordkolleg in Rendsburg who initiated the project, provided wood from hist own spruce forest, while local waste management supplied the compost ground. Herbs, vegetables and all kinds of edible plants can grow here. Aiming at making gardening available as an experience and self-empowerment exercise, it enables people to see food grow in real-time and receive a hands-on understanding of the effort it takes. Immediately, the garden bed received a lot of positive feedback from the local community. Who knows, maybe this could even grow into a bigger urban gardening project beyond Anscharpark.

High Bed in Anscherpark (Kiel)

New study on the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on community energy

The exploratory study investigates “how the current situation affects the work of transition intermediaries in the energy sector”. The article is based on the data collected between January and October 2020 in the Co2mmunity project and how Covid-19 policies impact community energy projects, was the concrete objective of this research. 

The results show that these impacts are divers. One central topic was the ability to build trust. Here the already established projects, with a strong trust base, were least affected by the restrictions. Another factor was the source of financing, privately funded projects had bigger difficulty than publically funded organisations.

CE and Covid study

The authors, Henner Busch and Teis Hansen, state that “these findings can help governments, intermediary organizations and citizen groups to design future transition processes in ways that are more resilient to external shocks”.

You can download the full article on this site.

Finland: firm found to conduct geological survey

Exciting news from our Finnish pilot project: the team has chosen a consultancy to carry out their geological survey for their renewable energy housing project. This project is located at Husulanmäki, about 90km from Helsinki, and will emphasize communal living powered by the abundant geothermal energy available in the region.
The successful firm was chosen based on a series of factors including quality, implementation, and price. Following a recent kick-off meeting, work will begin within the next three weeks, with the first version of the geological survey being available towards the end of April. The Green Net Finland team and their partners will deliver results to the community and the Lapinjärvi municipality following a final review in May.
Working alongside the technical and geological parameters, Aalto University, Helsinki, will begin investigating how environmental and aesthetic outcomes will also be influenced. 

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!