The Rural Energy Community Advisory Hub (RECAH) officially launched on the 17th of June at a live event in Brussels.
The RECAH initiative, led by Ricardo in collaboration with Ecorys and ELARD, is tasked by Achille Hannoset, European Commission´s Directorate-General for Energy (DG ENER). The work of the Advisory Hub will be carried out with the overarching aim of further developing sustainable energy communities in European rural areas.
The launch event was a hybrid conference held at Tour & Taxis Venues. Attendees included local authorities, research individuals, energy community and cooperative representatives, policymakers and other social and economic stakeholders.
Mr Hannoset gave the opening address, highlighting the importance of the RECAH initiative. He noted that the current high-price environment and the adoption of the repower EU communication made the timing of the launch even more prevalent. He placed an emphasis on the need for citizens to be on board and engaged and invited stakeholders to begin considering how they could actively participate.
Eugenia Bonifazi, Project Manager of RECAH, provided further details on why the RECAH had been created. To achieve European climate objectives and to ensure that rural communities are part of the transition and are not left behind. She commented on the importance of operationalisation of local development plans, input to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and farm modernisation. She set out the three main activities that the RECAH would undertake to accelerate the development of rural energy communities across European rural areas:
- Identification of best practices.
- Provision of technical assistance.
- Networking opportunities.
Ms Bonifazi also announced that the RECAH will host an event in Poland, in September, where they will launch the call for proposals for technical assistance. Their network of experts will aim to provide technical support to at least 40 projects. The event will be an opportunity for stakeholders to learn about applying for and receiving the support in more detail.
A presentation on citizen engagement, social acceptance and communication was given by James Roscoe, a member of the supporting RECAH team. He reported that only 16% of citizens surveyed, in both rural and urban areas, were aware of energy communities and only 4% were actively involved. These figures came from a survey carried out in 9 different European member countries findings from the NEWCOMERS project, part of the Horizon 2020 project.
Following Mr Roscoe’s presentation, Elodie Salle, Lead on technical assistance for the RECAH, launched the technical assistance pilot phase. She gave details of the types of assistance that the RECAH would provide to rural energy communities, which included:
- Investment & financial assistance.
- Technology and system-related advice.
- Legal/regulatory support.
- Communication support.
- Capacity development and knowledge transfer support.
Ms Salle explained that they will be working with three or four energy communities during the pilot phase, which will run until October, to test their application material and their process towards assistance for the communities.
A 30-minute interactive session provided the audience with an opportunity to ask the RECAH team questions about the needs and barriers to the successful deployment of rural energy communities. Insights were gathered from the attendees using the interactive presentation software, Mentimeter. Topics of the questions included, how to effectively ensure citizen engagement, how to best communicate to stakeholders in rural areas, and the main challenges and main drivers of energy communities.
Pouyan Maleki, a member of the RECAH team and a researcher in COME RES, a Horizon 2020 project, also presented at the event. His presentation provided insights about the research project, which carried out an analysis of 21 good practice case studies of successful renewable energy communities across Europe.
In an in-depth analysis of ten best practice case studies, the COME RES researcher team determined a set of common drivers and success factors. Mr Maleki spoke about these drivers and factors and noted the three key lessons that came from the study:
- There is a need for a combination of drivers needed for a renewable energy community to succeed.
- A sound and sustainable financial model and the involvement of public authority figures are the most crucial factors of success.
- There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach/model, the success of renewable energy communities is dependent on being tailored to the local context.
The event also welcomed members from two existing RECs to share with the audience their success stories. The first was Yoann Lefol from Energies Citoyennes en Pays de Vilaine (EPV), an energy community that financed, constructed and currently operates the first community-based wind turbines in France. The second success story was presented by Andreas Klaer from Elektrizitätswerk Hindelang eG (EWH), a small co-operative in Germany that has been operating a hydropower plant for nearly 100 years.
The final part of the event included another interactive session using Mentimeter where the audience gave their responses to three questions:
- What do you think are the main benefits of rural energy communities?
- How can collaborations between rural and urban areas be facilitated through rural energy communities?
- Which types of technologies will be most effective in the rural energy communities?
The RECAH team advised that they would take stock of the answers provided by stakeholders and see how they can be acted upon.
The closing remarks for the event were followed by refreshments and an opportunity for stakeholders to network.
- RECAH launch
- 18 Juni 2022
- Directorate-General for Energy