Energy communities are initiatives led by citizens, allowing them to take control of their energy production and consumption. They help decentralize the energy systems where the grid is owned by local people with solar and wind farms set up in fields or solar panels installed on rooftops. That way, local people consume the clean and renewable energy they produce at home, and every household becomes a player in the energy sector. Citizens take an active role in the decision-making process and share the economy within the local community, as these projects stimulate local employment.
The community energy concept also offers a solution for energy poverty, one of the greatest problems we have in the world today. In 2018, about 34 million Europeans were unable to keep their homes adequately warm. According to an EU-wide survey in 2019, 6.9% of the EU population was unable to afford to heat their home sufficiently. Especially in local areas, energy poverty is a major problem that can be fixed with the flexibility energy communities offer to the electricity system through demand-response and storage, while improving their energy efficiency and reducing their energy bills.
In May 2019, the EU has introduced the concept of energy communities in its legislation through the Clean Energy for All Europeans package as “citizen energy communities” and “renewable energy communities”. Particularly the revised Renewable Energy Directive II (REDII) and the Internal Electricity Market Directive (IEMD) contain provisions that create a supportive EU legal framework for community ownership. With these provisions, the EU legislation acknowledged for the first time the role of community energy ownership to meet its climate and energy objectives and signalled a strong shift in the role of citizens from passive consumers to active participants in the energy transition.