The Community Power Coalition has released its manifesto ahead of next year’s European Parliament elections, calling for a people-centred transition to renewables.
Its paper says that accelerating renewables at speed and scale is vital, but involving consumers and communities is equally crucial, noting that additional renewable energy installations for 2021-2023 have saved European consumers more than €100bn.
The manifesto urges the European Commission and member states to “address the current imbalances in the energy system, support the ramp-up of community-based renewable projects and harness their transformative potential as we must move towards a 100% renewable and democratic energy system”.
While member states have made significant progress on the clean energy directives by creating enabling frameworks and support schemes, several countries are lagging severely behind, the coalition warns.
It calls on the next European Commission to support and closely follow member states in the proper transposition of the RED II & III and IEMD Directives and to ensure they create robust regulatory and enabling frameworks that level the playing field for energy communities in the energy market.
Member states should also ensure fair access to grid infrastructure and markets, simplify administrative procedures and permissions, and provide financial support mechanisms, the manifesto says. And it wants energy communities’ specificities need to be taken into account and mainstreamed across all energy market activities, including electric mobility, offshore wind, citizen-led renovations, and heating and cooling projects.
Another proposal in the manifesto is the introduction of specific national targets and measures for community energy in National Energy and Climate Plans (NECP) – which is already happening in some member states.
“We call on all EU member states to create national targets for community energy in their NECPs and the necessary measures to achieve them while monitoring this progress,” says the manifesto. “Furthermore, we strongly urge the European Commission to address and support the integration of these targets and the measures.
“Finally, energy communities should be able to participate on an equal footing in all activities of the energy market, including cutting-edge technologies such as offshore wind.”
Member states should also financially support local communities with the development of renewable energy communities (RECs), says the coalition. The manifesto warns that while EU public funds are available, governments have yet to provide sufficient and targeted programmes for RECs, making access to financing a significant barrier to the development of community renewable projects.
“We urge member states to allocate specific public funds and budget lines, and unlock financing tools, such as revolving loan funds, to bolster consumers-led and community-owned renewable projects, accelerating their progress,” says the manifesto. “Additionally, we call on the commission to support managing authorities in devising tailored public finance programmes that reward the additional social and environmental impacts of community energy projects.
“The commission also needs to ensure that funding supporting energy communities is available and sufficient in all appropriate current and future European funding schemes.”
Local authorities are also important actors in the promotion of RECs, says the coalition, and should be empowered to use their knowledge and resources to create an enabling environment for them. One enabling tool already available to local authorities in the EU is the fact that RECs – regardless of their legal entity as co-operatives, foundations, or otherwise – are considered by the EU as social economy actors, meaning they can benefit from tenders dedicated specifically to them.
“Without this knowledge, the EU procurement law unwillingly still poses a fundamental hindrance to local governments facilitating local energy communities through public procurement,” says the manifesto. “To promote energy communities effectively, the European Commission should provide specific regulatory guidance about them, including the existing procurement rules that incorporate social and environmental criteria while avoiding legal action risks.
“Additionally, reducing administrative burdens, offering technical assistance and providing public financial support to municipalities across Europe will help them establish energy communities and deliver on the REPowerEU goal for at least one renewable-based energy community per municipality above 10,000 inhabitants across the EU, by 2025.”
The coalition’s final ask is for the commission to support member states with the implementation of mechanisms to enable the participation of low-income and vulnerable households, especially those experiencing energy poverty. This will allow them actively benefit from renewable energy communities, it says, and leverage energy communities potential to deliver on key elements of the Social Climate Fund.
In addition, the coalition asks for further incentives to be provided and existing resources to be used for the establishment and operation of energy communities in Just Transition Fund territories to bring the benefits of the transition to local communities, tackle regional energy needs and support local social and environmental objectives, including job creation.
“Energy communities with strong social impact (e.g., gender equality, youth and migrant inclusion) could be supported with public EU funds,” adds the manifesto.
“Our collective direction should be clear. Energy communities stand as tangible manifestations of how climate-just solutions can concurrently embody social justice, collective action and democratic principles in the energy sector. As we approach a defining decade for urgent transformation and climate action, the EU must prioritise and amplify the role of these communities in our renewable energy transition.
“We call upon EU policymakers to unite behind this manifesto’s vision, propelling the growth of energy communities for a democratic, resilient, and affordable energy future. Let’s empower and accelerate together for a 100% renewable energy future powered by community-based renewables.”
The Community Power Coalition brings together 40 associations across Europe – representing energy co-ops, networks of cities and local authorities, the renewable energy industry, legal experts, environmental NGOs and others. Its members include Co-operatives UK, EnerCoop, Coopernico, Energy4All, RESCoop and Son Energia.
Claire Roumet, director of Energy Cities, said: “Local authorities are strong allies of the community energy movement. But they need more guidance on how they can support – such as via public procurement – and more human and financial resources to dedicate to these collaborations.”
Dirk Vansintjan, president of REScoop.eu, said: “Climate change is a global crisis requiring collective action – from individuals and communities to authorities, social economy actors like renewable energy communities, and profit-driven companies. With the right enabling framework, renewable energy communities can mobilise citizens, their support, and savings to accelerate the energy transition and promote energy democracy.”
Maria Santos, Friends of the Earth Europe campaigner and coordinator of the Community Power Coalition, said: “We are entering a critical phase for implementing Europe’s climate policies. EU institutions must deliver a 100% renewable and just energy system. Community energy is vital to ensuring that everyone can take part in and benefit from this transition, especially vulnerable households and the energy poor.”