Through a growing network of citizen cooperatives, REScoop 20-20-20 promotes the sharing of tips and expertise about renewable energy. The EU-backed project also clarifies the many legal, technical and financial hurdles they face.
In Germany, citizen cooperatives have long been investing in the production of renewable energies and some are now looking at how to buy back the energy grid from the energy companies. They failed to do so in Berlin, but have succeeded in Hamburg, creating a new business model that many other countries would like to emulate.
This sort of information is the lifeblood of the EU-backed REScoop 20-20-20 project, which ends in 2015, and has aimed to help the EU meet its target of generating 20 percent of energy from renewables by 2020. The project is coordinated by the Belgian renewable energy cooperative Ecopower with partners from seven other EU countries. "We wanted to find the existing renewable energy cooperatives and what they do," says project coordinator Dirk Vansintjan. So far, they have listed 2 400, including citizen-run trusts and non-profits.
Spreading the model
In France, Spain, Croatia and even Greece citizens have started to invest in renewable energy cooperatives, but different legal contexts and lack of support mechanisms mean they still lag far behind northern European countries like the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Belgium.
REScoop 20-20-20 is hoping to spread the cooperative model across Europe through dialogue, the sharing of best practices, workshops and mentoring by experts. The direct involvement of citizens in decisions about energy sourcing also has financial benefits, such as share options. “We’re all about helping citizens and and their cooperatives get a grip on energy production, distribution and supply,” says Vansintjan.
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The EU’s Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (EASME) manages the funding for projects in this field.