REScoop warns of problems with plans to redesign EU electricity market

The co-op apex warns the proposals ignore the way local ownership can help ‘communities hedge themselves against the effects of the energy crisis’

European renewable energy co-operatives have criticised the European Commission’s legislative proposal to revise the EU’s electricity market design.

Published on 14 March, the proposal aims to accelerate renewable development and the phase-out of gas by revising several pieces of EU law. Suggested measures include enabling consumers to invest in wind or solar parks and sell excess rooftop solar electricity to neighbours, not just to their supplier.

“The current electricity market design has delivered an efficient, well integrated market over many decades,” said Kadri Simson, commissioner for energy. “but tight global supply and Russia’s manipulation of our energy markets has left many consumers facing massive increases in their energy bills.

“We are today proposing measures that will enhance the stability and predictability of energy costs across the EU. Driving investment in renewables will help us reach our Green Deal goals and make the EU the powerhouse of clean energy for the coming decades.”

REScoop, the European federation of citizen energy co-operatives, warns that although the proposal “opens up energy sharing to all households and small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and opens further the possibility to sell local renewables through power purchase agreements (PPAs), it ignores the role of local ownership of renewables production and supply in helping communities hedge themselves against the effects of the energy crisis”.

The apex also criticised plans to include national support schemes for nuclear alongside renewables, which, it says, could slow efforts to decentralise and optimise the energy system towards renewables and flexibility.

Under the proposal, households and SMEs would be guaranteed the ability to treat off-site renewables production as self-consumption, as long as production and consumption are carried out within the same bidding zone. But REScoop says the energy-sharing provisions have yet to be adapted to take into account the special needs of energy communities. 

A statement from the apex said: “It strengthens obligations for network operators to clarify procedures and provide transparency for prospective energy-sharing initiatives, while mandating regulators with the task of making sure barriers for citizen energy community projects are removed.

“It also limits interference from other commercial market actors. Furthermore, it requires member states to remove barriers that prevent renewables producers from selling directly to third parties through PPAs and to make sure vulnerable customers have access to energy sharing schemes, are protected from disconnections and can enjoy universal service.”

But REScoop adds that the Commission’s plan “completely ignores the impacts that mainstreaming energy sharing will have on locally owned initiatives by municipalities and energy co-operatives.” The apex stresses that communities need to “be supported in being able to take ownership and benefit from these common goods, sustainability and public acceptance issues are likely to become more prevalent, hindering the energy transition.”

Dirk Vansintjan, president of REScoop.eu, said: “Clarifying that all households and SMEs have a right to share local renewables production to meet their consumption needs is certainly a step in the right direction. However, the proposal promotes commercial for-profit initiatives without accounting for the negative impact this is likely to have on community initiatives. This could ultimately disadvantage locally governed initiatives.”

“The new obligations for network operators and regulators will hopefully make it easier for local governments and their citizens to access information and overall should simplify connection processes, making them much faster for community energy projects,“ said Claire Roumet, director of the city network Energy Cities.

“Nevertheless, the proposal did not acknowledge the importance of local ownership as a solution to the crisis, and the new text on energy sharing via commercial parties might actually pose a serious threat to the future of community energy”.

The proposed reform will now have to be discussed and agreed by the European Parliament and Council before coming into force.     

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