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Energy communities: an overview of energy and social innovation

Abstract: 

Community energy refers to a wide range of collective energy actions that involve citizens’ participation in the energy system. The Clean Energy Package recognises certain categories of community energy initiatives as ‘energy communities’ in European legislation. Energy communities can be understood as a way to ‘organise’ collective energy actions around open, democratic participation and governance and the provision of benefits for the members or the local community. This report focuses on 24 community energy schemes that could potentially be considered types of energy communities. The case studies analysed show that community energy projects are found in diverse forms across Europe. The most widespread involve energy generation. Examples include school buildings or farm roofs equipped with solar panels, or windmills installed by residents in a village. Further, small biomass installations, heat pumps, solar thermal and district heating networks are popular technologies for some community groups. While their overall proportion as investors in renewables may remain small, citizens and communities have a huge potential to invest in renewables. An increasing number of projects is also getting involved in energy efficiency and energy services that return profits to the community.