Baltic Sea Region meets North Sea Region in pairing partner meeting

Baltic Sea Region meets North Sea Region: in a webinar last week, projects from the UK and Denmark provided inspiration for co-operation between successful projects in engaging citizens towards a clean energy transition. 

Our danish project partner, Middelfart Municipality, is also part of the fellow Interreg project EMPOWER 2.0 and organised the online event. It was visited by participants from Lithuania, the UK, Germany and Denmark.

The two solar energy projects “Solar Together Essex”, which coordinates group-buying schemes for rooftop solar panels, and “Sol over Brenderup”, a community energy project, have both realized about 1MW of solar installations and plan to expand in the future. The representatives spoke about their project’s story, success and challenges. Unsurprisingly, with the UK project taking a top-down and the Danish taking a bottom-up approach, the initiators face different challenges along the way.

Citizens from the village Brenderup (DK) presented tips and tricks on how they successfully established their own solar park. The presentation was a good example of a YIMBY way (Yes In My BackYard). One of the project founders stated that financing and all the applications surrounding the project were the big challenges in the beginning. Equally, acquiring all the relevant knowledge as someone new to the field was time consuming and dependent on intermediaries, such as Middelfart Municipality.

The presentation from Essex county (UK), also part of EMPOWER, demonstrated how citizens can make their own collective group purchase of solar PV on their own rooftops, as collective action. You could say this was a YOMRT way (Yes On My Roof Top). Conversely, the challenge to “Solar Together Essex” is reaching potential buyers. In their experience, the more personal, but also more expensive, targeted letter resulted in higher response rate, when compared to giving out leaflets. 

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

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.

Green heat energy in Varena, Lithuania

One of the many projects in the heat sector already implemented in Lithuania is the renovation of an apartment building in Varena to 100% renewable heat energy and hot water supply that was completed in 2013. While the district heating system in Varena is already fired by biomass to a degree of 97 % the aim of the project was to prove a 100% off-grid solution is possible as well.  To cover the heating needs of the 40 apartments in the building from green sources, 7 wells were drilled to a depth of 100m and connected to a heat pump, while hot water is provided by solar collectors on the roof. The residents covered 40% of the total cost, the city and the JESSICA programme each covered another 30%. Another article on the project can be found here.