2024 wishes and actions so that no one is left behind

by | Jan 30, 2024 | Uncategorized

In many countries across Europe, energy communities are developing rapidly, following the European directives. They help citizens meet their needs and contribute to addressing social, environmental, and economic challenges. In Greece, the model has existed since 2018 and, despite various difficulties, it is continuously evolving.

So, what do we wish for energy communities in 2024?

  • To grow in both quantitative and qualitative terms. We estimate that more than 2,500 citizens are members of energy communities in the country. Although this figure represents a great success for a model that has only been around for a few years, we would like to see this number multiply in 2024. We would also like them to implement more projects, with an emphasis on collective self-consumption projects. We want them to continue working on preserving their democratic governance model and to keep prioritizing meeting needs over generating commercial profits. Finally, we would like to see them further strengthen their role as integral and organic parts of the local societies where they are born and grow. Cultivating synergies with local businesses, organizations, and municipalities and combating energy poverty can contribute to this direction.
  • To strengthen networking and free exchange of know-how and ideas. This has helped them face challenges so far. Creating a national energy communities’ coalition that started in 2021, made decisive steps in 2023, and is expected to be completed in 2024 is a highly promising effort in this direction.
  • To expand their range of activities beyond the production of electricity from photovoltaics. Thus covering more needs and reducing the risk of their business model. Expansion could include technologies such as wind (including offshore), hydroelectric, biomass, agro-photovoltaics, thermal energy production, as well as sustainable mobility services, energy saving, and flexibility services (storage and demand-response).

But why do we think now, more than ever, it is crucial for our wishes to come true? This year will be decisive for the energy transition. The forces representing it (from the political and business world and the civil society) must secure strong social and political support at the national and European levels to continue and accelerate. However, we are observing an increasing part of society turning its back on the energy transition. They fear the changes it brings and feel insecure. They perceive the energy system and energy as something increasingly incomprehensible and expensive. In an environment of instability, they feel uncomfortable with terms they struggle to understand and engage. These fellow citizens consider themselves as the losers of history and choose to rally more and more behind populist voices that oppose the energy transition, attributing to it both challenges that result from it and challenges that do not. It is now apparent that the energy transition will not be a pleasant walk in the countryside where our only concerns will be technological and financial. It is becoming clearer that a complex social transformation is taking place that horizontally affects society’s functioning. The policies and organizational models chosen can strengthen or weaken institutions, highlight narratives that unite or divide, and enhance or destroy democracy itself. Energy communities represent an organizational model with the right qualities and a governance model that allows all citizens to be heard and participate. They have the innate ability to embrace those who feel they belong to the losers of history. Preventing them from aligning with populist voices that offer unrealistic and simplistic solutions to complex environmental and social challenges.

How, then, will wishes turn into actions? The State must ensure a favorable environment for developing genuine energy communities. Ideas, experiences, and know-how fortunately exist and can be drawn:

  • From the field where we meet energy communities with significant social, environmental, and economic impacts that can serve as compasses. From Iliotropio in Lesvos, Minoa in Crete, and Allilenergia in Syros to the local energy communities of Sifnos, Halki, and Chios. From the energy communities of Pharmacists and Aenaon in the Peloponnese to ESEK in Karditsa and Koinergia in Epirus. From the Ophelos network in central Macedonia to EKOIN Attica, Solarity, Hyperion, and Collective Energy in Athens.
  • From a large ecosystem of organizations, networks, and academic and research institutions that, in recent years, have contributed to the development of the community energy model. These actors collaborate directly and indirectly with energy communities and implement related research programs. The results of their research and their experience are accessible and valuable.

Let’s try collectively in 2024 to embrace especially those who feel the greatest fear and threat from the energy transition. Let’s support our fellow citizens who think they are the losers of history to become the protagonists!

Dimitris Kitsikopoulos is a Ph.D. candidate (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki) and a member of the ELECTRA energy organization, which has been promoting the transition to a democratic energy system since 2016.