The sparks of a European democratic energy transition
“If we act as individuals, it might be too little. If we wait for Governments to act, it might be too late. But if we act as communities, it might just be enough”.
Reflecting on the Community Energy Spring Gathering
Blog post by Electra Energy Cooperative & REScoop.eu | Sara Tachelet, Chris Vrettos
In an era marked by converging crises, from climate change and war to democratic backsliding, and socio-economic inequalities, a growing sense of apathy and isolation from political processes has enveloped many, particularly the younger generation. The rise of ‘climate anxiety’, a phenomenon that is ubiquitously spreading across the world, reflects a pervasive sentiment that young people today may be the first generation expected to be worse off than their parents. Yet, amidst these challenges, collective, bottom-up action can help individuals regain a sense of ownership and agency to tackle complex global issues.
Against this backdrop, over 200 community energy stakeholders, many of them women and youth, from across Europe and the Balkans, converged in Athens from the 8th to the 10th of May for the Community Energy Spring Gathering. Organized by REScoop.eu and Electra Energy Cooperative, this event provided a platform for envisioning and co-designing the renewable, democratic energy system(s) of the future. The gathering featured 23 thematic workshops covering topics such as policy and advocacy, collaboration between municipalities and energy communities, reimagining economic systems beyond profit, and integrating social and gender justice in energy communities. Balancing the intensive workdays, there were social activities, such as Greek dance lessons, art performances, and a field trip to the Acropolis, fostering relaxation and deeper human connections.
Capturing the vision
During a visioning exercise for the ‘ideal energy system of the future’, participants emphasized the integral aspects of the community energy movement: social inclusion, concern for impacts on local communities, practices of resource-sharing, local sustainability and sufficiency. Guided by these principles of social and environmental justice, the Community Energy Spring Gathering aimed to exemplify them in its organization. Choices included local, vegetarian/vegan catering, and the adoption of various zero waste practices. The event achieved almost complete gender parity among speakers and participants, with dedicated sessions focusing on concrete tools for energy communities to tackle energy poverty and promote social and gender justice. In the spirit of inter-cooperative solidarity, the Spring Gathering also supported local cooperatives with most participants staying at the Welcommon Hostel, a social cooperative hotel where various side events took place.
Empowering Communities in the Energy Transition
As the energy transition unfolds rapidly across Europe and the world, we must ensure that citizens are placed at the heart of this shift towards renewable energy. Achieving this requires working within our communities to share tools, build capacities, and exchange knowledge. The Community Energy Spring Gathering facilitated the presentation of key tools along various thematic lines including basic cooperative organizing, policy and legal frameworks, public financing opportunities, tackling energy poverty, community engagement and storytelling. What stood out for most participants were the various opportunities for peer-to-peer learning. In this ever-evolving field of the energy transition, characterized by uncertainty, it is imperative to assert our right to a democratic energy revolution through horizontal and bottom-up organizing.
The Community Energy Spring Gathering aimed to serve as a stepping stone for people seeking to actively participate in the democratic energy transition. In the coming months and years, we anticipate witnessing participants joining, initiating or supporting energy cooperatives within their neighborhoods and local communities.
Stay tuned for next year’s Community Energy Gathering in Eastern Europe, as we continue our journey towards a sustainable future. Together let’s keep fighting for a global democratic energy transition, starting with the community around us.