There are energy co-ops coming across Europe – a landmark success, but is it too late for the UK?

One of the most attractive features of co-ops is our willingness to work together, to co-operate.

An example of this was the formation a few years back of a network of European renewable energy co-ops, ResCoop.eu, prompted by an inspiring co-op in Flanders and sheltered initially by Cooperatives Europe, the regional network of the International Cooperative Alliance.

Creating a common voice and platform has now paid historic dividends, as European policy makers have recognised the model as a vital one for mobilising people around low carbon energy systems.

The European Parliament and the Council this week agreed rules for how Europe will roll out renewable energy over the next decade. This is part of the so-called Winter Package, overhauling the energy system across the continent.

The EU now has a binding objective of increasing renewables by 32% by 2030, with the possibility to review the target in 2023 in order to revise it upward.

For the first time ever the rules now provide an explicit role for citizens and communities through co-operatives in the future of renewables. The Renewables Directive contains a strong definition of ‘renewable energy communities’ as well as a definition of ‘self-consumption’. The Directive provides rights, as well as a basis for developing national rules and enabling regulatory frameworks to help them flourish throughout Europe.

This includes ensuring they are taken into account in national renewables support schemes and it encourages the role of renewable energy communities in helping vulnerable customers and alleviation of energy poverty. The Directive also lays down strong rules to ensure households who use the renewables they generate without feeding it into the grid are exempt from grid charges.

Dirk Vansintjan, the visionary President of REScoop.eu, now a network of 1,500 energy co-ops, comments that: “this is a remarkable day for European energy citizens. Up until yesterday they had no recognition in Europe’s energy policy. Now, they have a set of tools to empower themselves and their communities so that they can prosper in the energy transition.”

It is now over to member states to look at how they will implement this, encouraged along by co-ops in every country. The timetable stretches longer than the UK, with Brexit, is set to remain.

If we want all this for the UK, and we have some elements already, we are going to have to build a strong voice by going back to where we started… co-operation.

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