SKDP and “ECCO” – Creating new Energy Community CO-operations
What is the ECCO Project about?
North West Europe (NWE) faces the challenge to unlock new renewable energy sources to meet its GHG targets and improve energy security. National and local policy makers in NWE are engaged to rise up to this challenge as testified by eg the Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy, signed by hundreds of local and regional authorities voluntarily committed to implementing EU climate and energy objectives on their territory. See also ‘Policy relevance’ section.
However, they currently can only base their renewable energy policies on traditional energy industry actors. With their centralized and solely profit-driven operating model, these actors are only interested in harvesting renewables in specific areas, not in injecting any other socio-economic benefits into communities. This confronts policy makers with a growing public reaction: ‘not in my back yard’ (NIMBY). They face this market failure: how to overcome this public resentment and get citizens actively committed to the energy transition NWE needs. All project partners are currently working with several national and regional authorities on this issue.
However, renewables allow for large numbers of smaller distributed generators, offering an opportunity for citizens and local communities to get involved– bottom up – in the process of moving from a centralized capital based to a de-centralized approach. Rural areas, especially farmers, offer the necessary physical and social resources to develop a new renewable energy supply system
Community renewable energy cooperatives do emerge throughout NWE in an effort to organize the supply of renewable energy while at the same time empowering sustainable development of local communities. The examples of Energie Dörfer in DE as the leading region on this issue, and similar initiatives in NL & DK prove to other, following regions that organising well-developed rural community cooperatives for decentralized energy management is a promising strategy, giving policymakers a viable alternative actor for taking forward a sustainable energy policy. New local ownership and financing models will generate local economic and social benefits, increase peoples acceptance of change and raise awareness of changes needed for a more sustainable lifestyle. They ascertain that rural areas and the people living there (incl. farmers) can reap the benefits of the energy transition.
Emerging community energy co-ops often lack the ability to grow further and become real ‘agents of change’ for driving the energy transition. They face barriers that cannot be dealt with singlehandedly: lack of financial strength, technological and management knowledge. Development support tools and methodologies on these issues were already developed through other European funds (eg H2020, Interreg NWE Rural Alliances,…). However, due to lack of cooperation amongst all the existing co-ops, these tools still remain dispersed and fragmented due to lack of cooperation, and have not been adapted to specific contexts due to them being developed from a more ‘top down’ academic perspective. As a result local ECCOs have problems accessing and using them, hindering their development.
As a result, community energy co-ops in most regions still aren’t considered by policy makers as reliable actors in the energy field. Policy makers still need to become aware of community energy co-ops as a potentially decisive (f)actor in organizing local renewable energy supplies and, thus, helping to reach the European GHG reduction targets.
By transnationally developing an Accelerator Network that facilitates cooperation amongst ECCOs, rallying their knowledge, jointly developing tools, and demonstrating the ECCO concept throughout the NWE area, a disruptive effect will be realised for promoting renewable energy whilst also enhancing territorial cohesion. A growing number of ECCOs, supported by an equally growing number of local and regional policy makers will be a driving force for change.
What does ECCO aim to do?
We aim to accelerate the development of Energy management Community Co-Operatives (we call them: ECCOs), both in effectiveness and in numbers, as a viable alternative approach for local and regional policymakers in NWE to reach their GHG reduction targets.
We define ECCOs as: ‘community owned co-operatives for energy supply services, involving private citizens, local entrepreneurs and farmers to produce, store and distribute renewable energy by employing local resources from rural areas (planet), driving a joint local business for long term economic benefits (profit) guided by community based democratic control, and committed to learning, training and collaboration (people)’.
Firstly, the project will be focused at ECCOs to become more effective, by learning together to overcome the barriers ECCOs presently face: dealing with the current legal framework, attracting sufficient investments, establishing an elaborate local community involvement, and keeping up with complex technical and organisational demands. The project will not develop new tools or methodologies to overcome these barriers, but will improve effectiveness and usability of already existing but currently underused tools by exchanging knowledge and rallying expertise.
Secondly, the project will be aimed at ECCOs to become more numerous. Partners will reach out to policy makers and community groups, and support them to initiate their own ECCO. Partners will share knowledge to provide valuable support for initiating and developing more ECCOs. In addition the project will provide an open source information platform to enable prospective ECCOs to easily access the tools they need for their initial development.
Inspired by the good example of the ‘Energiewende’ in DE as a ‘leading region’, and NL as ‘first follower region‘, the project will roll out this dual strategy of ‘deepening’ and ‘widening’ by putting in place an ECCO Accelerator Network: an expanding locally, regionally, and transnationally interconnected network for promoting and supporting a decentralised, ecologically, socially and economically sustainable energy management. The Accelerator Network is to function as an ‘ecosystem’ that will develop throughout NWE to facilitate other ECCOs to start and develop. It will improve access to development support tools and organisations for communities and policy makers wanting to develop more ECCOs but not knowing how to get things done.
Project partners and a set of 9 existing inspiring ECCO examples (we call them: Beacon ECCOs) spread throughout NWE will form the core of this expanding Accelerator Network. Beacon ECCOs will function as a tangible source of inspiration for prospective ECCOs, demonstrating how to successfully develop and run an ECCO, and policy makers, convincing them of the validity of the ECCO concept. Subsequently, more and more ECCOs will join the Accelerator Network and share experiences, thus creating a self-replicating process.
The Accelerator Network will be hosted by RESCOOP, an EU network of energy co-ops that originated as an H2020 financed thematic network but currently involving mostly large energy co-ops. The Network will enable them to better reach smaller community-based ECCOs as well. Long Term Development Plans will be drafted for enabling the transnational Accelerator Network and its Beacon ECCOs to continue operating and expanding post-project. Partners will thus be able to carry on their supporting role after the project has ended and to go on attracting more ECCOs to join the movement. Partners will organise demonstrational and training activities for policy makers and community groups teaching them how to self-replicate ECCOs.
Envisaged result will be 50 additional ECCOs throughout NWE at the end of the project, but multiplying post-project, resulting in an enduring approach to secure and sustainable energy supply and thus enabling NWE to reach GHG reduction targets.
What is SKDP’s role in the project?
We, as a partner member, are focused on developing the concept of Community Energy in the South Kerry region, delivering the benefits that can flow from the development and ownership of such renewable energy projects for the communities of the region.
We will work transnationally with our other partners to deliver the best models and opportunities for South Kerry based on their prior experience and knowledge to ensure that the region and all its citizens can benefit fully from the many renewable energy assets that exist in the area.
We will establish a community owned structure in South Kerry to enable the development of renewable energy projects for the benefit of its citizens into the future.
We will work to ensure Irish Energy Policy is designed to enable communities benefit fully from the renewable energy assets that exist in their areas thus helping to ensure vibrant communities going forward.
We will work with all citizens and businesses in the region to assist them in understanding fully the issues relating to energy demand reduction thus helping then undertake the necessary steps to deliver the many economic and environmental benefits that arise through reducing their own energy consumption.
We will work going forward with other communities throughout Ireland and beyond to help then explore the opportunities that exist for their regions through sustainably exploiting their renewable energy assets and reducing their energy demands.
Want to know more?
Please contact ECCO Project Manager Seán de Buitléar by e-mail ([email protected]) or by phone on 066 9761615 for further information on what ECCO can achieve in South Kerry and how you can be part of it.