Written by Maria Santos, Community and Renewable Energy Campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe.
The Community Power Coalition, an alliance of more than 50 organisations advocating for community energy from across Europe, is celebrating its 10th anniversary!
Once a niche idea, the community energy movement has gained support and momentum across Europe over the past decade. How come? People have realised that the current energy system is not delivering for them and the planet. They have also been feeling a pressing need for concrete and bold climate and energy solutions. Citizens, grassroot organisers, and activists for many environmental organisations have driven the movement and tirelessly dedicated their work to raise awareness and bring political action. Ultimately, this has resulted in changes in the regulatory landscape for energy communities to be able to develop and prosper. Among these champions stands the European Community Power Coalition.
From a “People’s Windmill” to the Clean Energy Package provisions
Rewind back 10 years, in November 2013, Friends of the Earth Europe, Climate Alliance, Climate Action Network Europe, Ecopower, ICLEI Europe, Energent, and RESCOOP.eu brought together more than 150 people to form a “People’s windmill”. This enormous, colourful performance called for EU policymakers to put citizen and community-controlled renewables at the centre of Europe’s energy policy. The collective stunt kicked off countless activities, organising and campaigning to make sure that decision-makers and people were made aware of the potential and benefits that community-owned projects could bring for citizens and the energy transition.
And the campaign bore fruits. In 2016, the European Commission published the Clean Energy for All Europeans package, consisting of eight laws aimed at reforming the energy policy framework and delivering on the Paris Climate Agreement. This opportunity opened the door to push for legal recognition and regulatory support for Community Energy, an opportunity the Coalition seized upon and actively advocated for within the European Commission to recognise its potential and benefits.
As a result of the coalition’s efforts, the Renewable Energy Directive (RED II), published in 2018 and entered into force in 2019, incorporated the community energy provisions. It established a new right for communities, cooperatives, and individuals to produce, consume, store, and sell their own renewable energy without facing excessive charges or administrative barriers. Furthermore, it clearly defined the concepts of Citizen Energy Communities and Renewable Energy Communities as organisational entities.
Celebrating 10 years of achievements
Over the past decade, the coalition has grown to more than 50 organisations united by a shared vision and purpose – to mainstream community energy as a people-centred, democratic and climate-friendly solution. Today, it is a strong alliance of EU-based members such as Friends of the Earth Europe, CAN Europe, RESCoop, and national-based organisations, associations and cooperatives spread out to more than 20 countries in Europe. The significant achievements of the past 10 years are clearly reflected in the increasing uptake of community energy projects across Europe, with an estimated 9000 energy communities currently in operation across the EU, and the increasing number of events bringing together new ideas and people. On the 21st of September, coalition members and allies celebrated the 10-year anniversary. In an event in which the story of the coalition and past achievements were remembered and celebrated and where the past and current community energy champions were acknowledged and praised.
The event was co-hosted by MEP Nicolás González Casares, and during this occasion, the coalition honoured him with the ‘Community Energy Supporter Award’ to acknowledge his unwavering dedication and support for the community energy movement, a commitment made even more significant given his role as the Electricity Market Design rapporteur. It is important to recognize these efforts, as the growth of this movement owes much to the collaborative work of the coalition and the countless past and present champions and allies who have contributed to the transformation of political momentum into a robust legal and regulatory framework, thereby evolving the concept from a mere niche idea into a thriving and impactful reality in Europe. Additionally, the event served as the launching pad for the coalition’s future vision, marked by the official release of the Community Power Coalition’s Manifesto: ‘Empower and Accelerate Energy Communities for a Democratic, Resilient, and Affordable Future.
A Manifesto to Empower and Accelerate Energy communities
As we enter the defining years to implement Europe’s climate policies, the 2024 European elections are set to be a crucial moment to shape the policy landscape in the following years. Undoubtedly, the coalition has made significant accomplishments in the past decade. However, energy communities still need to ensure adequate support at EU level, and the right enabling conditions at a national level to allow for citizens to make use of the provisions introduced in the Clean Energy Package. The coalition gathered key demands in a manifesto for the elections that (still) need to be addressed by the European Commission and the Member States.
The key demands revolve around the urgent need for full transposition and implementation of community energy provisions from the Clean Energy Package in European Union member states. Currently, many nations lack the necessary enabling frameworks and adequate policies to support community energy initiatives. To unlock the transformative potential of community energy, it is imperative to provide the right financial support, ensure the inclusion of community energy in National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs), and empower municipalities as key allies.
As for the next 10 years, the coalition is sticking together and staying dedicated to creating a strong and vibrant European community energy movement. With inclusive and democratic principles at its core, energy communities are the best way to involve citizens and local communities in the transition, educating and raising awareness on the benefits of renewable energy and energy efficiency, helping to curb any resistance to energy projects while promoting energy solidarity with vulnerable and energy-poor households. Together with allies and champions, we will continue to highlight the role that energy communities can play in achieving Europe’s climate and energy targets, and the need to put citizens and local communities at the heart of the transition to achieve a democratic, resilient and affordable energy future.
For more stories, check the Together for 100% Renewable Europe website.