Energy communities for a just and democratic transition

Ioanna Theodosiou participated in the fourth Annual Political Dialogue of the EU Initiative for Coal Regions in Transition, contributing to the discussion on “Energy communities in coal regions” and how to link economic and social opportunities, addressing energy poverty and consumer empowerment. The focus was on the social acceptance of renewables, the sustainable shift of the regions which were for years inextricably related to coal, the legislative and policy barriers, and the challenges to overcome.

Bringing examples from Greece’s lignite regions and specifically Western Macedonia, Ioanna Theodosiou highlighted how energy communities can in fact enhance the social acceptance of energy transition, giving citizens the opportunity to actually become involved in the transformation of their regions by actively participating in the creation of a decentralized, and a more democratic energy model.

To strengthen this prospect, a modern spatial planning is essentially needed to minimize tensions over the land use, while incentives for cooperation between energy communities and big RES projects will maximize the immediate economic benefit of the just transition for the local communities.

However, Ioanna Theodosiou stressed that it is crucial to create new job opportunities and a diversification of economic activities that will constitute the new identity of coal regions, based on sustainability, climate neutrality, participation and solidarity, avoiding the creation of a new monoculture.

In Greece, even though there is a sufficient legislative framework, crucial issues related to funding, projects’ prioritization, grid availability, and electricity market distortions are not completely addressed.

To overcome these challenges and better exploit the potential of energy communities, Ioanna Theodosiou provided the following recommendations:

  1. Activation of existing EU & national resources for energy communities.
  2. Subsidies for the installation costs of energy communities projects to meet own energy needs.
  3. Creation of a Development Fund for energy communities.
  4. Grid upgrade and Priority to self – production projects by citizens’ energy communities.
  5. Incentives for cooperation between energy communities and RES companies in large projects
  6. Ambitious targets for energy communities in the NECP revision
  7. Protection of energy communities from unfair competitive processes

Other participants included:

  • Heleen Schockaert, Project Manager, REScoop
  • Sarunas Bruzge, Economist, Energy Efficiency & Energy Advisory, European Investment Bank (TARGET and JASPERS)
  • Hardi Murula, Development expert, Association of Local Municipalities of Ida Virumaa, Estonia (Participant in TARGET project)
  • David Pawera, Senior Consultant, Beepartner, Czech Republic
  • Adela Tesarova, Head of Unit, Just Transition, Consumers, Energy Security, Efficiency and Innovation, DG ENER

The panel discussion was Moderated by Pouyan Maleki, Energy communities expert, Ecorys

The Annual Political Dialogue was held in Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic, on 27-28 June 2023. You can watch the opening session of the event here.