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The REScoop PLUS project is coming to an end ... or is it ?

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March 2019 marks the end of our project. But there is more to come regarding Energy Efficiency in the Cooperative movement. More updates soon ... but first let's look back at our work throughout the project.

The REScoop PLUS project comes to an end: cooperative engagement for Energy Efficiency is valued

March 2019 - The REScoop PLUS project comes to its end after 36 months since its launch date on 1st March 2014. This project, supported by the European Union Horizon 2020 Programme, aimed to encourage renewable energy cooperatives (REScoops) in Europe to go beyond their core activities of producing and supplying energy and to take up energy savings for their members as a new pillar in their organisations. Involving 12 partners - of which 8 cooperatives - from across Europe, the objectives of the project have been threefold: provide scientific evidence on the role of Energy Cooperatives in changing energy consumption behaviour of their members; build a Toolbox to support Energy Cooperatives in implementing Energy Efficiency and provide guidance to policy makers to support the important role the Community Energy movement has in promoting Energy Efficiency around Europe.

Cooperative engagement lowers energy consumption

The project was successful in many aspects. Our research partners managed to link the cooperative membership with a strong impact on the energy citizenship. They found a statistical correlation between reduction in energy consumption of citizens on one hand and their cooperative engagement on the other. The REScoop PLUS research points out that - on average - REScoop members reduce their energy consumption by 20% per year when joining a cooperative. This reduction goes up to 45% if the cooperative member is also a prosumer. The majority of the tested group claims to have a better knowledge of energy related topics and 61% indicated lowering their energy consumption after joining the REScoop.

Community Energy Toolbox

The evidence based research proves there is a huge potential for energy savings, especially when citizens become energy cooperative members. Therefore, the community energy movement wants to take its responsibility in upscaling energy efficiency efforts by REScoops. To support cooperatives, the project gathered, analysed and replicated different energy efficiency activities of REScoops and launched the REScoop PLUS Toolbox, which brings together 7 tested tools that can support REScoops and their members. The toolbox is divided into two categories:

The coaching tools aim to help members better understand their consumption and provide guidance to cooperatives on how to encourage their members to move towards more efficiency and solidarity in their behaviours.

  1. InfoEnergia is a program leveraging smart meter data, in order to provide contextual information to the members regarding their consumption. The members receive a comparative analysis of their consumption versus similar consumers, and tips on how to reduce their consumption. Our academic study showed that the implementation allowed for 29.20 % reduction of the members consumption.
  2. Energie ID is an analysis tool that provides a predictive view to members on their consumption and help them take steps to lower and better their consumption. The tools supports Ecopower in its effort to help its members be more efficient collectively. Our academic study showed that the implementation of this tool has resulted in a 11.42% reduction of the members consumption.
  3. Dr Watt is a training program used by Enercoop to make cooperative members more energy aware. The training team of the cooperative holds local workshops to teach members how to recognize their consumption from their household and appliances. The cooperative also hosts discussions between citizen groups to share tools and techniques to be more energy efficient. Our academic study showed that the implementation allowed for 60.31% reduction of the members consumption.

The district Heating tools aim to help REScoops at deploying a more efficient heating system for their community.​

District heating is the most efficient way to deploy a heat network and to provide affordable heat for citizens. The best practices that we deployed are called the “Package Approach”, the “Technical Support” and the “Return Flow optimization”. They focus on the offering this system to the largest number of consumers locally. The Packaged Approach is a way deploy district heating in a way that allows cost-sharing in a fair way and avoids large investment costs for consumers. The Technical Support is focused on supporting the most vulnerable members to refurbish their heating system. Finally the last one is linked with optimizing return flow of heat through collective response of the members in order to allow for lower collective prices.

Policy Recommendations

Finally, the project also looked at the role of the community energy movement within the European policy landscape. The aim was to enhance understanding among policy makers on the role citizens and communities have in taking energy saving measures, promoting the ‘energy efficiency first’-approach and addressing energy poverty. During the project, the partners had the opportunity to participate in discussions on the Clean Energy Package, that was agreed in December 2018. This new EU legislation acknowledges the unique role of the community energy movement and provides a set of rights for citizens and communities to participate in the Energy Transition. Now Member States will be required to implement these new requirements on energy communities and energy efficiency at the national level. The REScoop PLUS partners analysed the impact on existing national legislation and came up with recommendations for this transposition.

Recommendations regarding Member States’ NECPs

  1. In their NECPs, Member States should establish high level objectives or targets for supporting community ownership of renewable energy. In doing so, Member States should also acknowledge the potential synergies between support for RECs and CECs and investments or actions that result in behavioral change around energy efficiency and building renovations.
  2. In their NECPs, Member States should provide concrete policies and measures to support energy communities in encouraging energy efficiency at household level, particularly in the areas of:
  1. Energy efficiency schemes and alternative measures with a social purpose under Article 7  of the EED. Specifically, member States should ensure that thresholds should not prevent smaller CECs that supply electricity or heat from participation in energy efficiency obligations schemes. At the very least, CECs should be able to benefit from voluntary participation in such schemes. In addition, Member States should ensure that markets for energy savings (e.g. white certificates) allow energy communities to participate. CECs and RECs should also be a point of focus when Member States are developing alternative measures.
  2. Renovation of public and private buildings. Member States should consider the role that RECs and CECs can play in delivering their National Renovation strategies. In particular, Member states should provide investment support for renovations in shared housing or apartment buildings connected to district heating and areas that have potential to be energy positive districts. Energy procurement rules should include criteria that make it easier for local authorities and CECs/RECs to collaborate in renovating public buildings.
  3. The delivery of energy efficiency services. Member States should support a level playing field and commit to reducing barriers for CECs and RECs to become licensed suppliers so that they can sell energy and encourage their members to become more energy efficient.
  4. In the delivery of energy efficient public procurement. Member States should develop sustainability criteria and provide guidance to local authorities so that it is easier for them to support local citizen initiatives during the process to procure energy supply and other services such as energy efficiency.
  5. Information and training measures for citizens. National, and to the extent relevant regional and local, governments should provide support to existing information and training campaigns undertaken by CECs and RECs in order to upscale the impact of such actions for instance through existing National Energy Efficiency Funds.

Recommendations for transposition of the Renewable Energy and Electricity Directive

  1. Member States should adopt robust definitions that align RECs as a subset of CEC, ensuring that they are open, voluntary, autonomous in their internal decision making, and promoting business models whose purpose is to drive renewable energy investment, deliver energy-related services and address socio-economic needs – rather than generate profits.
  2. In the transposition of the Renewable and Electricity Directive, Member States should priorities the reduction and simplification of administrative procedures, costs and other disproportionate barriers so CECs and RECs are allowed to become licensed suppliers, establish district heating networks, and provide other energy-related services (e.g. aggregation, energy efficiency, etc).
  3. In their enabling frameworks required under the Renewable Energy Directive, Member States should develop policies and measures that assist low-income and vulnerable households can benefit from, and can access, cheap renewables and energy efficiency services through participation in energy communities.
    1. Member States should provide incentives (e.g. special loans, grants, and other financing arrangements) to citizens that are vulnerable or experiencing energy poverty so they have easier access to participation in a REC or CEC.
    2. CECs and RECs should be encouraged and provided a sufficient amount of autonomy around metering of local networks (e.g. district heating, electricity sharing), in order to allow these networks to incentivize reduced consumption, and to develop solidarity schemes designed to help members experiencing energy poverty vulnerability, particularly through energy efficiency investments and energy bill support.
  4. Member States should develop frameworks for collective self-consumption and energy sharing by CECs and RECs based on the value that these initiatives can deliver to the energy system. Cost-benefit analyses used to determine network and other charges (e.g. taxes and levies) should therefore take into account the ability of RECs and CECs to deliver energy efficiency, flexibility and other demand-side solutions, in particular to the DSO, which result in reduced long-term operational or network development costs.
  5. In their distribution network development plans, DSOs should provide transparency on the potential, as well as practical use, of RECs and CECs to better manage the network in a cost- efficient way.

Altogether, the REScoop PLUS project was an incredible experience for the cooperatives and, the European federation of REScoops. The partners are very grateful to EASME and the European Union H2020 program for giving them the chance to explore and improve the awareness of the energy efficiency topic in the community energy movement. It is one important step on the cooperatives’ road towards a more energy efficiency energy system. Now the next step - coordinated by – is to push and support REScoops to continue along this road. By doing so, we believe we can build a more responsible, socially fair and local embedded European energy system all together.