Energy solidarity is the least well defined of the three concepts underpinning CEES. Indeed, making the concept more concrete and actionable is a key aim of the project.
Following the lead of REScoopPlus, CEES is seeking to establish energy solidarity as a powerful way to emphasise the distinctive and important work that energy communities (ECs) can do to tackle energy poverty as they lead transitions towards decentralised, sustainable and efficient energy systems.
Community-based values and actions at the local level are already core to the work of ECs and other organisations seeking to address energy poverty. Clarifying key principles of energy solidarity will help ‘anchor’ activities they undertake to specific aims while also enhancing integration of actions across various spheres of engagement.
- Engaging with those in energy poverty: Taking steps to recognise and show empathy to those living in energy poverty is critically important, particularly in contexts where the issue is not well understood or adequately addressed by other actors (including governments).
- Raising awareness of why energy poverty exists and its impacts: Often, energy poverty is perceived – by both actors and people affected – as a personal matter. ECs can play a key role in helping all parties understand that it results from multiple factors linked to financial and infrastructural systems, as well as the needs of individual households needs. ECs can also help boost understanding of how energy poverty undermines the health and well-being of citizens, and how addressing it can deliver multiple benefits to societies (e.g. lower healthcare costs).
- Leading equitable and fair clean energy transitions: Beyond establishing and/or operating systems that help communities move to renewable energy sources, ECs can help their members and others in related ways. Examples (among many others) include improving energy efficiency of homes, boosting energy ‘know-how’ (e.g. ‘behaviour change’ in areas such as adopting small measures to save energy, understanding bills and how to switch tariffs) or offering microdonation schemes.
- Anchoring broader community relationships. Eradicating energy poverty requires systemic change, which implies engagement by many actors. ECs can help establish the local networks that promote community inclusion, cohesion and agency. Organising community events to build understanding of energy poverty and community energy, for example, or offering programmes to train ‘home energy advisors’ can build individual confidence and pride while creating local employment and economic opportunities.
- Creating EC networks for energy solidarity: As individual ECs build up experience across these areas, establishing local, regional, national and pan-European networks to promote the sharing of knowledge, skills and resources will support rapid deployment of good practices. The example of REScoop.eu demonstrates that such connections are highly valuable to all involved.
CEES aims to strengthen the commitment of ECs to address energy poverty within their missions by adopting a solidarity approach that deploys community-based mechanisms not only for small-scale renewable energy solutions but also to boost energy know-how and improve energy efficiency.
While helping people learn more about energy is often a main activity of ECs, getting involved in the energy efficiency of dwellings is new to many. Increasingly, the recognise it delivers long-term benefits to individual households and the community as a whole, including efficiency gains within the energy system and reduced local greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Energy efficiency measures are the most cost-effective, long-term solution to energy poverty and align well with key goals of the European Green Deal and the Just, Clean Energy Transition. Acting at local levels with a strong emphasis on solidarity, ECs can provide an integrated approach to supplying clean energy at affordable prices, improving the efficiency of homes and building the capacity of residents to manage their energy consumption. The following box highlights energy solidarity mechanisms of CEES partners.
Energy solidarity mechanisms of CEES partners
- Professional targeting trains members of organisations working with vulnerable and disadvantaged people, creating a referral network that can effectively detect cases of energy poverty and implement appropriate action mechanisms (ALIenergy).
- Energy Advisors is a programme to help young graduates or unemployed persons secure qualification as energy advisors who provide tips and advice on energy efficiency to homeowners (ZEZ).
- Repowering Refurbishment a community empowering training programme for promoting sustainable energy and tackling energy poverty (Repowering).
- Hands for Homes is a European network that promotes Shared and Supported Self-Renovation (3SR) practices that enable energy-poor households to engage in energy efficiency refurbishment of their homes at a lower cost (Les 7 Vents).
- Energie Solidaire is a micro-donation and energy donation funding scheme for local energy poverty mitigation programmes (Enercoop).
- Cooperative loans is a low-cost lending scheme for solar PV for self-consumption and energy efficiency measures (Coopérnico).