Energy communities: an essential tool for a truly just transition

Nikos Mantzaris participated in the event “Scaling up energy communities in Bulgaria”, on October 21, 2021. The event was co-organized by the European association of cities in energy transition Energy Cities, the Bulgarian non-governmental organization EnEffect, Center for Energy Efficiency, Greenpeace, the Bulgarian Municipal Energy Efficiency Network EcoEnergy and the Center for the Study of Democracy. Teodora Stoyonova of the European Climate Foundation, Todor Galev of the Center for the Study of Democracy, Mario Rajn, Mayor of Križevci (Croatia), and Ana Dzokic, co-founder of the energy community Elektropionir (Serbia) participated as well. The discussion was moderated by Atanas Genkov.

In his initial presentation, Nikos Mantzaris described the situation of energy communities in Greece, giving emphasis on lignite areas, as food for thought on the respective issues in Bulgaria. Specifically, he firstly referred to the Greek legislative framework for energy communities that was enacted in 2018, but stressed the instability caused by its frequent amendments which act as a deterrent to the development of energy communities.

Despite all the difficulties, however, and due to the good foundation laid by the legal framework of 2018, energy communities have progressed in general in Greece, but especially in its lignite areas. In Western Macedonia there are already 145 energy communities, with 36 projects with a total capacity of 20 MW being in different stages of development, while there is less progress in Arcadia with only 2 projects with a total capacity of 7.8MW.

The positive element for energy communities is the availability of resources to finance them, both national and European. In particular, at the national level, from 2018, the Greek governments channel part of the public revenues from the auction of CO2 rights in the lignite areas. In addition, part of the cost of installing energy community projects in lignite areas will be covered in the future by the European Union Just Transition Fund as such projects have been included in the Territorial Just Transition Plans recently submitted by Greece to the European Commission.

Finally, he highlighted that in order to make progress in the development of energy communities in Greece and especially to contribute to the Just Transition of Lignite Areas, specific obstacles must be overcome, such as resolving issues related to state aid that hinder their financing, the integration of key EU directives, grid availability and market distortions that ultimately harm non-profit energy communities.

Following a relevant question, Nikos Mantzaris submitted specific recommendations for the development of the institution of energy communities in Bulgaria and its use for the Just Transition of lignite areas, based on the Greek experience, which can be summarized as follows:

  • Adopting a strong legal framework which will promote non-profit energy communities and will not allow large RES companies to exploit it in order to bypass the permitting process or competition in the electricity market.
  • Ensuring grid availability.
  • Establishing of specific RES development targets by energy communities in the Bulgarian National Energy and Climate Plan (ESEK).
  • Channeling part of the funding for the modernization of energy infrastructures (Modernization Fund) and the Just Transition (Just Transition Fund) to the financing of energy community projects.
  • Including energy community projects as eligible projects in the Territorial Just Transition Plans to be prepared by Bulgaria for its lignite areas.
  • Providing incentives for the development of hybrid partnerships between renewable energy companies with energy communities in large RES projects

You can watch Nikos Mantzaris speech here:

And the whole event here: