Across the EU, rural areas face unique challenges: a dependence on outside energy sources, an ageing infrastructure, and an urgent need for sustainable growth. Rural energy communities are an effective way to shift towards renewable energy and reduce emissions. Demonstrating that innovative energy solutions are closer than we think, these communities harness local resources like wind, solar, and biogas to craft sustainable and economical energy pathways. They aim at self-sufficiency, reducing dependence on foreign energy while actively engaging locals and ensuring they receive benefits.
Through rural energy communities, the energy market is evolving from a centralised framework into a network of interconnected energy hubs. These hubs present an inclusive approach to energy independence, contrasting with centralised energy governance by emphasising a bottom-up model that actively engages citizens. Such collaborative initiatives offer local benefits that increase support and enhance the broader social acceptance of renewable energy projects. For instance, resistance arises when a community feels overlooked in a wind energy project. However, with active community involvement in planning and implementation, support significantly increases, bringing shared benefits and underscoring the importance of community involvement in the renewable energy shift.
Research shows that the main barrier to participating in an energy community is a lack of awareness, perceived skills, or knowledge. This highlights the need to amplify awareness and provide adequate guidance across the EU by showcasing effective best practices and business models for communities to emulate. To address these challenges, RECAH has extended diverse technical assistance to 28 rural energy communities, encompassing around 90 distinct activities. These span critical areas such as regional investment opportunities, technological guidance, legal and regulatory advice, stakeholder engagement strategies, and capacity-building initiatives. RECAH has also developed comprehensive guidance documents for establishing or joining energy communities. These resources offer insights into citizen engagement strategies, technological considerations, and navigating the complexities of EU Member State national legal and policy frameworks. More guidance documents will be published at a later stage regarding democratic governance, as well as on the potential role of municipalities, farmers, and larger actors in energy communities.
There has also been a concerted effort to document and disseminate best practices of rural energy communities across the EU. These best practices serve as a beacon for other communities aiming to embark on a similar journey. An example is Wildpoldsreid, a project that has been successful in generating renewable energy from a mix of sources, including wind, solar, small hydro, and biogas, surpassing their annual consumption by 500–800%. To read the full article on this and other best practices, visit the RECAH website resource page.
Serving as a reliable guide in policy and technology, the RECAH consortium takes pride in its role in enabling the development of rural energy communities. We are dedicated to ensuring these rural communities can access the services and support they require without facing any barriers.
- Publication date
- 19 October 2023
- Directorate-General for Energy