Community energy (CE) refers to projects where citizens (private households, communities etc.) own or participate in the generation of sustainable energy by collectively establishing renewable energy projects. Therefore, CE expresses the ownership of renewable energy by single owners (including individual agricultural enterprises, individuals and smaller corporations) as well as by renewable energy cooperatives. It may be realized through two different approaches. The bottom-up approach is about citizens establishing and owning their energy projects, while the top-down approach is about citizens being only partly involved. Biogas Community Energy is a collective bottom-up approach about supplying a local community with its energy requirements utilizing renewable energy from biogas produced by the community. It engages local people to lead, control and jointly benefit from their venture.
Community bioenergy sits high in the energy policy agenda as an inseparable part of the strategy towards a low-carbon EU economy. Sustainable biogas technologies have been extremely slow in catching up with community energy developments, failing to benefit from their undeniable potential. ISABEL aims to remove the obstacles and to promote community biogas in the EU by bringing out its societal relevance and by joining forces with a major revolutionary movement – Social Innovation. To achieve and sustain this transition, ISABEL employs modern marketing research to understand the needs and cultural diversities of the communities, fuses Social Innovation to reposition Biogas from an economic bio-fuel carrier to a social good, to come up with new community concepts and to build a stronger and wider community engagement in support of biogas. We zoom in on specific areas with diverse interest and we support communities on the ground to realize community biogas plans in coordination with all the stakeholders, slashing transaction overheads. We bring communities together to exchange and inspire each other as we carefully steer them towards quality sustainability and impact assessment principles. We zoom out to inform the policy world about what works and what does not, what should change and how we can scale-up, replicate and innovate in order to make investments more attractive. We envision a more innovative, better connected, less sensitive to policy and more transparent community biogas movement which will serve as a spring of ideas for other renewable energy technologies. We start simple – we want more ideas, more and deeper public involvement, more responsible community biogas plans and more bold and fair policies; and we bring along a highly complementary team of practical minded people to do it.
ISABEL’s research findings with regards to Community Energy:
As the international energy production models change rapidly, with regard to the twin-pressures of climate change and minimizing fossil fuel reserves, low-carbon economies, their management and ownership become increasingly important. Community energy is a collective bottom-up approach in tackling challenges related to energy, sustainability and climate change. Community energy projects engage local people to lead, control and benefit jointly from their venture. The challenge is to meet sustainability targets for secure energy systems, minimized greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) as well as for reduced individuals’ and group’ heating and electricity bills. Developing new models for innovation is thus needed.
Therefore, Community energy is a community based venture for generating and owning its own renewable energy. Community-generated and owned renewable energy at the local and regional scale is a local-scale solution to a long-standing global problem, which is associated to energy depletion and inefficient use of resources.
Creating a new renewable energy marketplace is challenging and the focus of ISABEL is to identify good practices, methods and tools for raising awareness, creating incentives, educating and connecting different stakeholders (citizens, municipalities, policymakers) to get involved in the implementation of new renewable community energy projects. Further to ISABEL’s empirical research, 18 stakeholders from numerous European nations (such as Greece, Germany, UK, Croatia, Denmark and Sweden) have been interviewed and their viewpoints highlight that there are three main factors for which community energy projects can succeed. These reflect upon socio-economic and environmental factors. Community energy projects empower local communities not only to generate and export their own energy but also to reinvest parts of their profits in the society. Community-based energy projects can spin-off self-sufficient, close-loop, energy economies through a sense of “common good”.
Thus ISABEL sees its contribution in this “public good” by demonstrating to local communities successful examples – “role models” – of community-based renewable energy projects across Europe and the world.