Eugenia Bonifazi, Project Manager of the Rural Energy Community Advisory Hub (RECAH), attended the EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) in Brussels after being invited to speak at the session on ‘Empowering energy communities: Building capacity for social innovation’.
EU Sustainable Energy Week
EUSEW encompassed 61 action-oriented sessions spanning energy independence, skills, decarbonisation, the just transition, and energy efficiency. These sessions will drive the direction and approach of EU strategy on tackling the energy transition in the coming years. Significant importance was placed on discussions around improving energy efficiency through implementing new technologies, digitalisation, and empowering citizens, and ensuring the energy transition progresses from local to EU level.
The week also covered the overarching theme of energy sufficiency, such that total energy demand must fall in Europe to meet climate targets. Energy efficiency improvements through, for example, heat pump installations and smart meters, particularly in industry and housing, will reduce electricity demand and place less stress on the grid and its requirements for expansion amid increasing electrification. From a citizen and energy community perspective, the drive towards increasing energy self-consumption through small renewable installations was highlighted as a solution for improved energy security and a reduction in energy poverty amid the energy transition in Europe.
Empowering energy communities: Building capacity for social innovation
Eugenia joined representatives from Energie Solidaire, Energía Bonita, ENEA, Südtiroler Energieverband, and the Energy Communities Repository for this session focusing on energy communities. It took place at 14:30 CEST on Day 2 of EUSEW and was one of the most well-attended sessions, with 726 attendees on-site or online.
During the session, the panel explored the non-regulatory barriers and issues related to social innovation, project design, development, and implementation, as well as the design of suitable policy measures to help overcome these barriers. The session also covered the possibility of using energy communities to combat energy poverty.
Eugenia presented concrete actions and best practice examples uncovered during the work carried out through the RECAH, highlighting how rural energy communities can act as a means for confronting issues such as high energy import rates of up to 60% in the EU, 8% of the EU population living in energy poverty, and low social acceptance rates regarding renewable energy technologies. Rural areas suffer from ageing populations, increasing rural–urban inequality, and lower rates of access to information. Eugenia stressed the benefits of a participatory model and lower renewable energy costs as a valuable opportunity for rural energy communities to play a significant role in addressing these issues. Drawing on the RECAH guidance documents, she also underlined the importance of municipalities and local stakeholders such as farmers in driving rural energy communities, as well as addressing the opportunities that arise through energy community activities such as self-consumption, redistribution of income generated in the local community through the sale of renewable energy to the grid, and the growth in employment opportunities in local areas.
The second half of the session took a more interactive approach, involving a Q&A with members of the audience and the panel.
You can rewatch the session on the EUSEW interactive programme by navigating to ‘Day 2 – Wednesday 21 June’ and selecting the ‘Empowering energy communities: Building capacity for social innovation’ session at 14:30 CEST.
The guidance documents and best practice examples referenced during the session are available to view, download, and share via the resources page on the RECAH website.
- Publication date
- 2 August 2023
- Directorate-General for Energy