Community energy has been a growing phenomenon in the last few years. These communities can play an important role in society, raising awareness, acceptance of the energy transition and other benefits, therefore it is important to understand the benefits they bring, as well as the barriers they face during their formation or later. Such knowledge is needed both for those, who are or are interested in being part of an energy community and those who create policies and processes connected to them.
The main source for this presentation is a research paper by Brummer called Community energy – benefits and barriers: A comparative literature review of Community Energy in the UK, Germany and the USA, the benefits it provides for society and the barriers it faces; combined with several other sources, named in the presentation.
Embeded interactive presentation
In this presentation we will take a look at the benefits and the barriers of community energy.
This topic is connected to the social aspects, as well as policy and regulatory aspects of the new clean energy communities.
The main source for this presentation is a research paper by Brummer called Community energy – benefits and barriers: A comparative literature review of Community Energy in the UK, Germany and the USA, the benefits it provides for society and the barriers it faces; combined with everal other sources, seen on the slide.
We developed the content of this presentation with the expert support of Paula Hansen from the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford, a NEWCOMERS project consortium partner.
2. CENTRAL PART – CONTENT
Comunity energy has been a growing phenomenon in the last few years. Deciding to join an energy community can be based on a variety of reasons, such as financial interest, independence or climate concerns, often a combination of them. These communities can play an important role in society, raising awareness, acceptance of the energy transition and other benefits. Despite the societal benefits the energy communities have, they may also face a variety of barriers in their formation and throughout their operations.
In the following segment, we will take a look at seven categories of benefits of energy communities.
Community energy (CE) can provide economic benefits on many levels. The most straightforward one is the generation of income, which includes direct financial gains from energy sale, but also job creation for the establishment and maintenance of RE installations. Reduced electricity and investment costs are also associated with shared access to renewables. Additionally, energy communities can support the growth and development of local regions, for example by attracting investors and creating jobs.
Improved awareness and acceptance
CE can provide a better understanding of low carbon energy sources, and support energy saving behaviour as well as promote general awareness-raising for issues connected with energy sources and energy use.
Participation can be direct, through financing. CE however foster participation on different levels, such as supporting citizens to participate in political processes dealing with energy policies.
Community building and self-realization
Through community energy, communities are upgraded, gaining more independence and forming stronger community identity. They foster community cohesion, help empower citizens and improve social wellbeing.
Climate protection and sustainability
Connected to both participation and education, people involved in CE activities are generally also more receptive to ethical and environmental commitment. CE can influence people's lifestyle choices and promote more sustainable behaviour.
RE generation targets
Particularly in countries where RE sources do not reach a high percentage in the energy mix, CE can be helpful in reaching RE generation targets.
CE may also contribute to maintaining a reliable, secure and efficient network. Community energy schemes are widely recognised as important part of a just, effective and secure energy transition. They also contribute to carbon reductions and power security
Now that we've covered the benefits CE have for society, we will take a look at the barriers they face their formation and operation. 6 categories have been identified.
Organizational issues / Legal framework / Planning requirements
This category includes barriers such as complex and longlasting legal and other processes to acquire funding, permissions and licences, the dependance on voluntary work and satisfying the needs of multiple stakeholders. Comunity energy is often either ignored in the policies and regulations or it is subject to complex, confusing and often changing policies, which denies CE of planning security.
The market structure and legal framework are laid out for centralised, large-scale energy production, and distribution, therefore new modes of governance to effectively design and operate community-based systems are needed.
Skepticism against RE / NIMBY
Here we are talking about the opposition against RE installations, based on either a wait and see attitude, landscape and nature protection activism or the fear for supply reliability of CE.
Lack of resources
Lack of resources can either mean finances, but it also means time and expertise. CE often cannot get enough funding, understand the market environment or have sufficient legal knowledge. Due to the lack of either of these resources, many energy communities canot set their ground.
This barrier includes either the saturation of the environment with the RE, meaning some areas are already infrastructurally full of RE installations, which is the case in Germany, or the difficulty of recruiting new members of energy communities, because all interested are already a part of one.
The initiative and the success of the community rely on the community itself, but as we've seen through this brief analysis, the policy framework sets the conditions under which the CE can emerge.
Therefore, as Brummer states, policy-makers should bear in mind the consequences of new regulations and incentives in the energy sector for this phenomenon.
If you're interested in a more detailed description of all the benefits and barriers, take a look at the research paper linked in the description box below.
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