During the first months of 2018 ISABEL partners organised 4 international workshops aiming to transfer ISABEL’s concept and findings to other regions in Europe. Highly motivated stakeholders from different neighbourhood regions were invited to participate and represent their region. Among the participants, ISABEL partners selected 3 promising cases with a view to be supported in the remaining months of the project.
The German ISABEL team conducted and coordinated the ISABEL’s International workshop on the 20th of April 2018 in Poland. This event was the first step introducing ISABEL to international communities. The focus was to disseminate bioenergy communities to former communist countries. Especially the Euroregion Pomerania with its transnational background was a good start point to disseminate best case practices (https://bioenergiedorf.fnr.de/), education material (Farmer Hubert for children) so as helping the stakeholders by the preparation of a project proposal to get funding.
In the case of the UK team, they chose to collaborate with Oskotz community energy project within Navarra (Northern Spain) in an area where there was a demonstration project showing different forms of renewable energy that could be applied at a range of scales. Partially to share experiences linked to the local projects and partially to develop collaborative links for projects in other countries, potentially thinking ahead to collaboration in Africa. Additionally, through shared experience, to enlighten some of those involved in UK community projects about some of the concepts and potential technology used in Northern Spain.
Links developed here originally because of a novel and innovative biogas technology, which appeared to have relevance in combination with other technologies to a range of community biogas projects here and further afield. Planet Energy SL have a farmhouse near Oskotz in the Imotz Valley with a demonstration mix of proven renewable energy including an ‘advanced septic biogas system’ – incorporating bacteria and enzymes able to produce methane ‘ for interested parties to visit. Provision of energy to individual properties is termed an ‘Energy Island’ and to clusters of buildings “Energy Communities’
In Oskotz there has been local collaboration to set up a small dairy co-operative, however they need guidance and leadership in relation to any community biogas project. They don’t have expertise in finance; project management or publicity/public relations so will need support. People of different ages would like to be involved in running the project. The concept is to use energy from any local biogas projects that are developed for private buildings, farming and industry and then sell energy as electricity. Digestate would be applied back to grassland and used in agriculture or horticulture. There appears to be favourable political support locally and regionally to support a biogas initiative.
The UK ISABEL community biogas team highlighted examples of good community renewable energy projects and particularly the community structures and roles that seemed to have succeeded – particularly those that are common in different locations. From a technical stand point there is a strong champion and close cooperation with ISABEL the rural project encouraging community involvement to help achieve traction.
Finally, the Greek regional partners identified Albania as neighbouring country worth exploring towards their interest and potential to expand ISABEL to this region. Particularly, the added value of the Municipality of Devoll, is that it is located just across Albania’s border with Greece and especially on the side of Prespa, while it is an agricultural region with large (currently) unexploited potential for biogas production.
The Greek ISABEL team offered services to the Devoll area stakeholders, for setting up their SI platforms and for designing an initial action plan of potential community biogas interventions. Since June there was a close collaboration between ISABEL partners and the Executive Director of Albanian Centre of Environmental Governance offering guidance on the on the data that needed to be collected regarding the type and quantities of the available biomass to estimate the energy potential of the biogas plant. Moreover, a feasibility study for the installation of a biogas cogeneration plant was prepared including an analysis of the collected information and 2 different scenarios developed highlighting the best business case scenarios for the community. Finally, a plan with the next future steps was created to guide the community with the necessary actions for the formation of a biogas energy community.