In the updated Renewable Energy Directive II (RED II), the EU clearly considers community energy as a key factor for future Renewable Energy (RE) market uptake and mandates Member States to implement regulatory frameworks for enabling and facilitating this process.
At the same time, several barriers prevent citizens from becoming (bio)energy producers and bioenergy projects to be more appealing:
Lack of preparedness for communities to tap the full bioenergy market potential
Lack of stakeholders’ awareness of the communities’ potential
Missing/ unsupportive (local, regional and national) framework and policy conditions
For a fair and people-powered energy system, BECoop (2020-2023), a project funded by the European Horizon 2020 programme, aims at putting communities in charge of their local renewable (bio)energy generation.
Two trends are observed in the EU, which set the base for BECoop’s reason-to-be:
A rather slow penetration of renewables in the EU heating and cooling sector, which accounts for 51% of EU’s total energy consumption and is expected to account for the largest share of demand by 2050.
A significantly untapped RE market uptake potential for bioenergy.
Deriving from living organic materials, bioenergy can be used to produce, among else, electricity, heat, and fuels. Even though not fully exploited, it holds, in practice, the highest potential for replacing fossil fuelled heat and remains the leading technology in the EU RE heating sector: the expansion of bioenergy projects across Europe would be of crucial importance for meeting the EU climate and energy targets.
Renewable energy uptake relies on peoples’ perceptions. In this context, energy communities and cooperatives (RESCoops) provide an ideal framework; they can empower a more effective, fair, and democratised clean-energy transition, leading to an increased social and consumer acceptance of RE developments. By 2050, almost half of the EU citizens could become energy producers meeting 45% of their energy demand. As recognized in the revised RED II and the 2030 Biodiversity Strategy, renewable (bio)energy communities have a key role to play for a sustainable future, holding a series of benefits.
Community bioenergy schemes can play a catalytic role in the market uptake of bioenergy heating technologies, yet their deployment nowadays remains significantly slow: biomass-based communities account for only a minor share of existing RESCoops compared to solar or wind. In terms of production, electricity takes the lion’s share, in contrast to heating.