If the need for more renewable energy* or more democracy seems pretty obvious to most of us, the need for more (citizen) ownership is generally less clear. And even less the combination of the three: community energy. Insights into the multiple benefits of community energy as a transformative process.
Community energy refers to any kind of power plant using a renewable source of energy, that has been planned, financed and which is owned by a community of people (from the village to the house). And why would these energy communities matter? It is nice enough but sounds pretty irrelevant when we think about fighting climate change or fostering democracy... However, several recent studies highlight the crucial role of energy democracy in meeting these societal challenges.
Hereafter, I will distinguish energy communities (as defined earlier) from external projects, which involve private or institutional investors and a project developer who do not belong to the community where the power-plant is installed. If informed and sometimes a minor share-holder, the community generally does not take part in the design and the decision-making.
Some benefits of community energy can (and sometimes have been) quantified:
Out of a visit I made in the energy self-sufficient village Feldheim (I'll relate that in a future episode!), I also got these two indications (which to my knowledge have not been quantified yet):
Other benefits are more difficult to quantify but are nonetheless tangible. A series of interviews from local stake-holders involved in community energy projects reported the following (see article & study -in German):
Finally, there is a range of strategical benefits: