Energy Communities: Citizens’ Action for Cleaner Energy

Vlasta Krmelj, FEDARENE Vice-President for Financing and Investment, discusses the opportunity and challenges of energy communities, the best workforce of a sustainable energy transition.

Energy Communities: Citizens’ Action for Cleaner Energy

Although COP 26 reached an agreement to limit coal consumption and increase financial assistance to developing countries, it actually ended without a clear action plan to maintain the achievable 1.5 C target. The COVID crisis will hopefully soon be behind us and economic development will somehow resume, but the climate crisis is far from over and will not be solved without real actions. Natural disasters such as storms and floods are putting millions of people at risk due to rising sea levels and extreme weather conditions. There is no easy solution to this, no equipment to stop climate change. Therefore, society and citizens should take action and try to prevent the cycle of climate change from going too fast.

In this context, energy communities present both a great opportunity and a challenge. They are the best workforce for implementing a sustainable energy transition. The legal background is here; it may not be complete everywhere, but it is still a good start. Global and EU-based environmental experts have proven that with the active participation of citizens, energy communities are capable of restructuring our whole energy system. It is much easier and more beneficial to cooperate and share the possible risks. Together, they will be competitive players in the energy market, counting not only on profits but also on the common benefits for society as a whole.

Many people understand the logic of the sustainable energy system – the production of energy from renewable energy sources at the local level with energy efficiency as an integral element. This would greatly benefit individuals and the community as a whole by creating opportunities for:

  • Potential new jobs as an efficient energy system would need additional workforce to maintain its continuity;
  • Reducing the vulnerability to price shocks as it is more apparent than ever, increasing energy prices are a threat to energy security;
  • Better nature protection and conservation resulting from reduced and efficient energy consumption.

To make this into a reality, major investments are needed and should be made in a cost-effective manner.

So, what are the next steps? Local and regional authorities, together with energy agencies, are the closest links to citizens and they have the capacity to play an essential role in informing and involving them, as well as setting good examples. Therefore, we invite all stakeholders to come together and discuss their views and explain these potential benefits to their communities.

Many questions will arise regarding the “how”, but with the help of pilot projects and lessons learnt from pioneer communities, we will be able to develop further. Let’s work together – time is more than right – energy prices are rising and climate change is still the greatest threat to our lives on Earth. Together, in the form of an energy community, we have the strong will, knowledge and instruments to steer it towards a better and greener future.