Energy communities have an important role in this transition: they contribute in a holistic manner to the initiatives and objectives of the Green Deal, encompassing renewable energy production and supply, building renovation, and the promotion of energy efficiency and flexibility. They also entail active citizen engagement and boost positive social norms, thus combatting energy poverty and fostering solidarity to assure a just and inclusive energy transition.
Recent crises like the COVID-19 pandemic and Russian invasion of Ukraine further underline the necessity to assure energy accessibility, resilience and security, especially at the local level. Energy communities again are significant in this aspect, generating local revenue, jobs and industries, and driving research and innovation.
Rural energy communities: an understanding and their particularities
Energy communities, including both renewable energy communities and citizen energy communities have been defined in several pieces of EU legislation, which commonly describe them as:
- A legal entity, based on open and voluntary participation
- Controlled by members or shareholders, those being natural persons, municipalities or small enterprises
- Have the primary purpose of providing environmental, economic or social community benefits
- Engages in generation, distribution, and consumption of renewable energy
Rural energy communities are especially important in relation to the EU’s climate objectives, as they involve the active participation of local authorities and citizens, the operationalisation of local development plans and help to ensure rural areas are not left behind in the energy transition. These communities entail valuable intersections with this involvement of local authorities and key policies related to the common agricultural policy, rural development, and farm modernisation.
What the Rural Energy Community Advisory Hub is for
The Rural Energy Community Advisory Hub is an initiative of the European Commission, which aims to accelerate the development of sustainable energy community projects in European rural areas.
The main activities of the initiative will be the identification of best practices and the provision of technical assistance and networking opportunities to the energy communities and local stakeholders selected to participate.
Building on the work of the Energy Communities Repository and the Covenant of Mayors, the project will provide important information for European institutions and national, regional and local authorities, as well disseminating best practices to support local authorities, businesses, farmers and citizens to set up their own rural energy communities
With specific technical and financial support, established Rural Energy Communities and Citizen Energy Communities can bring improved energy security to rural areas in a democratic method, while also providing economic benefits and employment opportunities for those involved. Energy Communities have a strong potential for energy production.