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Wednesday 25 April 2018
25 April 2018 - NEWS UPDATE
Community Energy

EU’s 2030 reform should recognise community power as vital to low carbon economy

The 2030 climate and energy reform process should integrate support for community power in EU legislation, or Europe’s energy will continue to be dominated by centralised power companies and fossil fuels, according to a new report.

Environmental law organisation ClientEarth has today published “Community Power: Model legal frameworks for citizen-owned renewable energy”, which argues that community power is an essential element in Europe’s low carbon energy transition.

Community power means communities sharing and investing in their own renewable energy production, including hydro-electric, wind and solar power.

Currently, while EU legislation implicitly supports some aspects of community power, it doesn't explicitly recognise or actively support it.

The report includes case studies from Spain, Germany, Denmark and the UK that demonstrate best legal practice, and sets out 11 policy recommendations. It also explains how Member States can use existing EU Directives, and learn from other Member States’ success, to better support community power projects today.

It states: “The low carbon energy transition requires that we design a more cooperative and secure energy system that gets citizens and communities involved in moving towards sustainability. Until now, law and policy across Europe has largely been built to support an energy system based on centralised production using fossil fuels, which regards citizens as passive consumers.

“By breaking from this mould and realising their potential roles as ‘prosumers’, and more broadly as ‘energy citizens’, individuals and communities can become a driving force of the low carbon energy transition.

“If supported by a fully integrated EU internal energy market (IEM), particularly one that more strongly aligns the EU’s energy liberalisation and decarbonisation objectives, local and regional markets for green energy can develop

“More socially oriented enterprises will also be able to enter the market to prioritise and facilitate development of local decentralised smart energy networks. These changes can help ensure that the energy transition results in a truly secure, competitive and sustainable energy system for Europe.”

The report makes 11 core recommendations:

* National legislation and policy should not define ‘community power’ restrictively. It should promote a wide range of models for citizen ownership and participation in the production and/or use of sustainable energy

* Legal frameworks should ensure at least partial community ‘ownership’ of, and effective ‘participation’ in, commercial renewable projects, either by statute or best industry practice

* In order to provide direction and certainty, governments (at all levels) should establish targets (ideally binding) for renewable energy and, more specifically, targets for community power

* Community power projects should not be subject to competitive bidding processes in order to receive operating support; instead, they should be eligible to receive feed-in tariffs

* National laws should incentivise community power projects based on ‘self-sufficiency’ (e.g. direct marketing and production for self-consumption), for instance through investment and tax relief, or reduced charges on energy consumption

* Governments (at all levels) should provide financial support (e.g. grant-to-loan, guarantee, or cheap credit opportunities) for preliminary investigations and works on community power projects

* Local governments, with support from national governments if appropriate, should use planning powers to require integration of renewables and energy efficiency measures into public, new and renovated buildings, streamline requirements for community power projects into a one-stop-shop approach, and provide guidance to assist navigation of regulations

* ‘Community leadership’ should be eligible as a material consideration for planning decisions relating to renewable energy projects

* Laws should provide equitable grid access for community power projects; reinforcement costs should fall on the grid operator as part of a continuing duty to ensure integration of renewables and ensure security of supply

* National laws should not impose overly-restrictive requirements on community power projects wishing to become owners/operators of network grid infrastructure or fully licensed suppliers of green energy

* The EU’s 2030 Climate and Energy reform process should include consideration for more explicit promotion and support for community power, particularly through integration into relevant existing EU legislation.

Josh Roberts, ClientEarth lawyer, said: “Community power can help Europe to decarbonise, while creating employment and revenue to help local communities combat fuel poverty. However, with insufficient recognition in EU law, it faces significant bureaucratic and financial hurdles. The 2030 process is the EU’s opportunity to positively show it is on the people’s side when it comes to energy policy.

“The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says we need to change how we generate, use and think about energy. We hope that this report will be used at EU and national levels to improve legislative conditions for community energy.”
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