The aim of a local renewable energy community is to encourage citizen involvement in sustainability and energy efficiency. It can consist of a number of structures: From a community of neighbours to SMEs.
The primary purpose is to promote the generation of energy from sustainable sources, as well as its production, supply, consumption, storage and distribution. They can also provide services related to the optimisation of energy efficiency and the promotion of sustainable mobility.
Advantages of local renewable energy communities
There are a number of advantages compared to other entities and organisations involved in the energy and sustainability sector. Here are some of them:
- They provider fair, simple and transparent access to local renewable energy resources and other energy and mobility services. This also enables energy communities to benefit from investments in these areas.
- They provide greater responsibility, autonomy and control with regard to energy needs and their capacity for self-sufficiency.
- They generate new investment and growth opportunities for individuals and SMEs.
- They make it possible to generate income that reverts back to the local community, promoting development, sustainability and energy efficiency.
- They make it easier to integrate renewable energies by managing demand.
- They generate benefits, not only environmental but social, by creating jobs and promoting social cohesion and equity.
Regulations governing renewable energy communities
Spanish law defines a local energy community as follows: "A legal entity based on open, voluntary participation. It is autonomous and effectively controlled by partners or members who are located in the vicinity of renewable energy projects that are owned and developed by this legal entity, the partners or members of which are natural persons, SMEs or local authorities. These include municipalities and their primary purpose is not financial gain but rather to provide environmental, economic and social benefits for their partners or members, or to the local areas where they operate."
This definition highlights the following important aspects that are a key factor in how a local energy community works:
- The leading role played by the community, whether this is a group of individuals, companies or local authorities, which enables them to have ownership and control of the community and to take the necessary decisions with regard to energy without depending on third parties.
- The degree of participation, which is voluntary and open. This formula avoids discrimination and the exclusion of individuals or players who until now had no possibility of getting involved in this type of formula, for example, groups of citizens and neighbourhood entities. Decision-making is also democratic as fair and real participation is established.
Variables that determine the nature of a local energy community
- Number of partners (individuals, companies and institutions): This determines the main features and potential, as well as the operational environment (industrial, residential, agricultural).
- Local environment: Area of operation, population involved, type of industry and housing, economic and social development. All of this will influence the models for energy production and consumption. The climate and geographical zone are also essential when it comes to determining renewable energies.
- Self-supply: Balance between generation and energy consumption in the community. Economies of scale are understood to enable energy communities with greater capacity to pay off the investment in a shorter time. The surplus management model will also be determined by all of the above and is a key factor in the actual configuration of the local energy community.
Examples of local renewable energy communities
- Solar panels in an urbanisation
An urbanisation consists of a number of blocks of dwellings. The neighbours agree to create a renewable energy community. They invest in the installation of solar panels to be located in the most suitable areas, so that the energy generated covers part of the energy needs for the entire urbanisation.
- Charging electric vehicles with sustainable energy
A municipality may decide to open an installation to charge the batteries of electric vehicles and which is powered by renewable, local energy. This is how it can encourage a change in the mobility pattern.
- Neighbours who activate an electric "car sharing" system in their neighbourhood
A group of neighbours decides to launch an electric car sharing project in their neighbourhood which is open to ne used by the community.
The possibilities of energy communities are endless and motivate people to participate directly and effectively in the ecological transition.