Midterm Meeting: TANDEMs in Vienna

For its 4th consortium meeting, the partnership gathered in Austria’s capital and delved into the Austrian ways of energy sharing.

Often, since the LIFE project kicked off in 2022, the members of the TANDEMs consortium have gathered in front of their webcams. The partnership has also met four times in real life to discuss ways and strategies for collaboration between citizen-led initiatives and city administrations in the establishment and operation of renewable energy communities. Halfway through the project, the consortium met mid-April for its latest physical meeting. 

The meeting was held in Living Community Gleis21 (Image: Oikoplus).

Although the TANDEMs pilot sites are located in Belgium, Bulgaria, and the Netherlands, the Austrian capital was chosen as the meeting place. For good reason: Austria’s path to decentralized energy supply offers exciting examples of good practice that the consortium wanted to take a closer look at. 

A field visit therefore took the multinational traveling group to St. Pölten, the provincial capital of Lower Austria, just outside Vienna, for an afternoon. There, David Obergruber and Carina Wenda from the city’s Climate Coordination Office (Klimakoordinationsstelle) gave an insight into their work in setting up two municipal energy communities, which should also allow private households to join shortly. Many thanks to the city of St. Pölten at this point. A short walk through the city center then led to the Klangturm in the government district of the provincial capital. There, Dr Herbert Geisberger, Managing Director of the Energy and Environment Agency of Lower Austria (eNu), gave a highly interesting insight into the administrative and economic framework conditions for the operation of energy communities in Austria. He was able to answer numerous questions from the TANDEMs partners about the intricacies of the Austrian energy market and the boom in energy communities in Austria. He emphasized that one of the key elements of energy communities is that they do not just offer an economic model of energy sharing. Still, much more: real communities are created at a local level, with many social aspects. These are just as important for the success of energy sharing as the favorable purchase of energy, he said. 

Dr. Herbert Greisberger, Managing Director of Energy- und Umweltagentur NÖ (eNu) gave a stand-up presentation on top of Klangturm (Image: Oikoplus).

The TANDEMs partners were able to deepen their impressions and learnings from the field visit the following day at an inspirational breakfast in an informal atmosphere. Michaela Kaineder from the Nobilegroup, a company that offers technical solutions for the operation of energy communities, and Mika Hasselbring from Urban Innovation Vienna, were able to offer further exciting insights into the implementation of energy-sharing constructions in Austria. 

The different framework conditions in various European countries were also recognized. The members of the TANDEMs consortium had the opportunity to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of different legislative regulations. These impressions were important because, not least, the TANDEMs project is also about developing concrete policy recommendations based on examples of good practice from Europe. The meeting in Vienna hopefully provided valuable input for this. 

Status updates on every work package were discussed (Image: Oikoplus).

And even though the weather was extremely changeable – typical of April – the friendly working atmosphere certainly helped to ensure that the consortium’s collaboration in the second half of the project continued to be positive and inspiring, not only in terms of content but also on a personal level.

In a public Inspirational Breakfast, Michael Kaineder (Nobile Group), and Mika Hasselbring (Urban Innovation Vienna) shared insight about the Austrian energy sharing models.

Inspirational Breakfast: Tools to make energy communities thrive!

Energy communities are playing a vital role in the clean energy transition, because they build resilience, independence and long-lasting cooperation. However, there are many legislative, financial and social obstacles that energy communities must overcome. How do they go about it and what methods, strategies or tools do they employ?

From 17th to 19th of April 2024 the TANDEMS consortium is meeting in Vienna for the fourth project partner meeting. During the three days, Oikoplus, our Vienna based partner, will organise an ‘Inspirational Breakfast’. This session invites impulse speakers to give insights into their work with communal energy, energy sharing, best practices, and noteworthy examples of their efforts within the energy transition. Each speaker will offer a unique perspectives into the complexities, but also opportunities of energy communities and energy transition. Their stories have a chance to inspire our partners and act as precedents for others.

Below we want to introduce our speakers:

OurPower is an emerging energy cooperative in Austria operating a peer-to-peer marketplace for RES electricity generated by its members. OurPower handles the online matching services as well as the whole process of electricity supply and billing. ‘Our vision is a world in which people use energy responsibly and obtain 100 percent of their electricity directly from regional renewable energy sources. With this goal, we operate our marketplace, which builds relationships around the topic of electricity. We stand for: common good, honesty, cooperation and pioneering spirit’.

Source: https://www.energiebezirk.at/ourpower/

Nobilegroup is a technology platform for Energy Hubs and micro-PPA’s. They create fully functional energy markets on a decentralized level and independence from volatile energy markets. They also share energy at a cost-based price-level by fully automated matching micro-PPA’s between members of their local energy hubs and their energy network. In 2024 Nobilegroup launched a new electricity offer across Austria under the brand ‘Power to the People’. The electricity comes 100 percent from Austria and renewable energy sources.

Michaela Kaineder, Director of Energy Hubs has been with the Nobilegroup for 2,5 years now and has together with her team already supported around 50 energy communities. Michaela and her team are responsible for the existing market as well as planned market development and internationalization, as well as the further development of the existing energy communities.

Source: https://nobile-group.com/

Mika Hasselbring works for the UIV Urban Innovation Vienna, which is the climate and innovation agency of the City of Vienna. They aim at supporting cities in their transformation into sustainable centres. They also play a vital role in supporting Vienna to become a digital capital and achieve climate neutrality by 2040.  UIV offers services in the field of: consulting, konwledge transfer, communication and netwroking, and project work. They are directed towards services are primarily aimed at the City of Vienna, national and international cities, public institutions, administration, science and research as well as private companies.

Source: Freepik

Join TANDEMS for an ‘Inspirational Breakfast’ !!!
Friday April 19th from 09:00 to 11:00
Gleis 21, 22 Bloch-Bauer-Promenade 1100 Wien

Register by klicking here!

Energy Communities and Cyber Security

Energy communities are based on local networks, connected by smart technology. This raises questions about potential security risks. What do we need to consider?

Energy communities allow energy to be shared locally across property boundaries. Smart energy communities can make a decisive contribution to ensuring that their members are less reliant on external energy. They are thus less dependent on fluctuating market prices.

Electricity Grid and Smart Meters

From a technical perspective, energy communities are billing constructs. In the vast majority of cases, the physical conditions of the electricity grid into which their members feed energy do not change. For example, anyone who operates their own photovoltaic system that feeds energy into the electricity grid, will also continue to feed energy into the grid as a member of an energy community. The difference, however, is that an energy company no longer bills the electricity generated. It is also offered locally to other members of the energy community – and billed at the energy community’s tariff. Smart meters made that possible. These meters can do far more than the electricity meters of the past. They do not only connect to the electricity grid, but also to the Internet of Things (IoT). But does networked and digital technology also create security risks when billing electricity?

The simple answer is yes – because wherever digital networking takes place and where organisations transfer data, there are risks and the need to think about cybersecurity.

Smart devices and security

Leonhard Esterbauer is a researcher at the interoperability of energy communities at the Vienna University of Technology. He explains the digital security risks for energy communities in an interview with the cybersecurity platform of the Austrian Center for Secure Information Technology. He states that “The networking of smart devices in the home or in company buildings naturally brings with it security-related problems. One of the most serious problems is when someone gains unauthorized access to my devices.” He gives the following advice to members of energy communities: “As everywhere on the Internet, it is important to check which of my data is processed, where and how.

As a general rule, a service should only collect the data that it actually needs for its operation. In addition, you should always question why the service needs to collect the date or send it somewhere. Dubious cloud devices are a negative example of this, and one should generally question the use of such devices. You should therefore only engage service providers that already have a good reputation. Otherwise you should have built up trust through independent checks.”

Policy and frameworks

Introducing: the Renewable Energy Directive (2018/2001/EU) of the European Union. It created the regulations and the binding framework for the establishment and operation of energy communities. And it led to a veritable boom in energy communities in many European countries. The scientific debate on the specific safety aspects of energy communities is developing slowly.

A 2023 research paper by a team of researchers led by Giovanni Gaggero from the University of Genoa, Italy, takes a concrete look at the new security risks posed by energy communities. The researchers analyzed architectures and protocols commonly used to build Smart Energy Communities, evaluating possible vulnerabilities. Their paper discusses solutions which society can employ to mitigate the risk, and highlights current gaps in the state of the art. They conclude: “Further work has to be done, in particular on the evaluation of the impact of potential attacks the distribution power grid.

In particular, the possibility that the platforms represent a single point of failure for compromising the distribution grid remains an open issue.” And in fact,  research on the particular security aspects of energy communities is happening. And a two-year research project at the university in Linköping, Sweden, which set-out in November 2023, focuses on developing new security methods for cloud-based energy systems. It also aims to develop new collaboration models that take into account the possibility of stakeholders to contribute to cyber security as well as market conditions in the context of energy communities.

The future of Energy Communities.

In Karen Trant’s vision of the future, energy communities (EC) are like huddles of Penguins, which come together in harsh winters in order to share heat and ensure the survival of many. Through this metaphor, the director of Customer Policy and Protection at Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU), envisions an energy transition, which is just, fair, collaborative and offers a supportive and safe energy environment. However for this hopeful vision to come to fruition, a lot of political, economic and social changes must take place. In this article we dig deeply into the vision for the future of energy communities and what still needs to be done to achieve it. 

Source: Quanta Magazine
Vision of the future.

While envisioning the future of energy communities, one must distinguish between a dream and a realistic prediction. These both work together, but they are not the same. One of them represents a manifestation. The other gives an insight on what energy communities must be in order for humanity to be able to cope with the constantly developing energy and environmental crisis. During the Rural Energy Communities and Energy Communities Repository joint conference in 2023, experts came together to discuss both of these future visions. Similarly to Karen Trant, Cilou Bertin from Energie Samen in the Netherlands, sees the future in a more metaphorical way, comparing EC’s to fruit forests. All diverse players have a specific role, but they also benefit each other, and work together in a localised environment.

The partners at TANDEMS envision the future EC’s as democratic, decentralized, but collaborative forms of energy production and sharing. Energy communities should be based on the principles of social cohesion and autonomy. They should encompass a collaborative and mutually advantageous relationship with municipalities or other stakeholders. On an economic level EC’s should become one of the norms of energy production that coexist with other energy market actors. Máirtín Ó Méalóid, from Energy Communities Tipperary Cooperative (ECTC), suggests that EC’s ought to become not just an alternative to the mainstream of the energy system, but be a part of the ‘normality’. We should recognise EC’s as an integral part of the solution to the current energy crisis. 

What needs to be done? Rules and Regulations.

Experts agree that in order to reach this vision of energy communities, we need to make much more efforts. According to Karen Trant, we are at the beginning of growth and development. We still have scalable, but very high mountains to climb. One of those mountains is policy frameworks. In order to achieve a certain vision of energy communities, governments and decision makers should introduce a clear and comprehensive set of rules. Regulations should enable the formation and operation of energy communities. This also includes elements such as market access, financial models and even capacity building or collaborative models. In fact, research organisations and other multipliers of clean energy transition can and should also contribute to policy shaping by introducing policy briefs, which offer summarized and informed policy recommendations.

VITO, for example, the Flemish Institute for Technological Research and a TANDEMS partner, works on the development of an Open Collaboration Model through pilot project work. They test and assess the best strategies for collaboration between municipalities, energy communities and citizens. VITO wants to achieve harmonious and mutually beneficial cooperation. These models can then be used as precedents for shaping new regulations or frameworks of working. 

What needs to be done? Funding

Another currently important hurdle for energy communities is equity. According to Máirtín Ó Méalóid, problems with unequal distribution of resources or money. lace the energy market. According to Máirtín ‘many energy communities spend their time worrying about where to get funding from rather than focusing on the important, visionary aspects of their work’. Equal and fair distribution of funds is essential for communities to become bigger players on the energy market. Additionally it helps them have the same share of influence as well as creditworthiness as other actors. Access to financing is furthermore allowing EC’s to have the same creditworthiness of larger energy developments. 

Addressing policy frameworks and funding is fundamental to achieving other important changes such as public awareness, participation and partnerships. By creating supportive policies, the energy market is able to create an environment of growth and popularity for energy communities. This way in the future the energy system can be resilient, sustainable and empowering for citizens. 

Capacity building: How to make citizens feel empowered?

In February, TANDEMS joined other LIFEProgramme projects in a meeting, which aimed to strengthen inter-project collaboration and give space to knowledge exchange opportunities. One of the most prominent topics was the issue of capacity building. All LifeProgramme projects put their heads together to debate over their strategies on how to ensure that individuals or communities take charge of their needs and identify their priorities. In this article we dive deep into the challenges, opportunities and best practices in capacity building for communal energy projects. 

What is Capacity Building?

Capacity-building is defined as ‘the process of developing and strengthening the skills, instincts, abilities, processes and resources that organisations and communities need to survive, adapt and thrive in a fast changing world’. Under the umbrella of the LifeProgramme, projects are working tirelessly on building capacity within the energy sector. They ensure that individuals, neighbourhoods, regions or communities become resilient towards the continuously shifting and unpredictable energy market. In TANDEMS, for example, the method of achieving this is encouraging the setting up of energy communities. Additionally the project supports the collaboration between municipalities and energy cooperatives. Capacity building is, however, not a straightforward process. During the meeting, all LifeProjects worked together to identify the potential challenges, opportunities and future strategies for this process. 

Challenges

One of the more prominent challenges of capacity building is the lack of a universal feeling of democratic rights among the society. Many citizens still are victims to a power hierarchy within the current political systems. Residents do not feel empowered enough to become autonomous from e.g an energy market, which does not have their best interests in mind. Changing power structures is a very long and complex process, which is extremely difficult to introduce.

Another existing challenge is sustainability. Building up capacity is one thing, but making sure that the new resilience learned by the community is sustainable, requires time, patience and continuous effort. Much of which cannot be afforded, especially when immediate results are needed, e.g. in old flats, which require immediate energy renovations. Lastly, capacity building is a very dynamic and intangible process. It is not the same all the time and it cannot be easily measured. This can lead to a sense of dissatisfaction and breach of perseverance. 

Opportunities

Nevertheless, challenges also open up multiple opportunities. Within the TANDEMS project, many energy communities work on a very localized and small scale. This avoids having to address bigger, extremely difficult issues such as power hierarchies within democratic societies. One of our partners, AGEM Energy Experts, is a great example of this. They work in a very localised area of Achterhoek where they are able to deeply understand local contexts and build capacity not only on a peripheral level, but also cause social and behavioural transformation. AGEM additionally offers expertise help. It helps citizens to fully understand and gain the skills needed to set up and manage an energy community in the long term.

Source: https://www.energieloketachterhoek.nl/over-energieloket-achterhoek/werken-bij/

Another illustrative example of good capacity building strategies is TANDEMS sister project, LifeLOOP. The project uses a variety of methods to build skills. Some of which include coaching and mentoring, networking and matchmaking or resource sharing. LifeLOOP additionally offers training sessions on ‘topics related to community energy such as renewable energy technologies, energy efficiency, financing models, community engagement, and project management’.

The meeting concluded in three main capacity building strategies. Putting priority in collaboration and formation of networks, which can train each other as well as form a strong and resilient community. Offering financial and legal advice by experts, which is tailored to individual needs and adjusted with time. And lastly, ensuring a long term vision for citizens of a certain community. Long term planning ensures sustainability and proliferation of good practices. These strategies can help energy communities, clean energy advocates,  municipalities or individual citizens to become independent and effectively manage their energy resources in the long run.

Cultivating Resilience: Exploring the Synergy of De-growth and Energy Communities

It has been a hot minute since experts began to question the sustainability of our current energy system. It became increasingly obvious that continuing business as usual in the energy sector leads to environmental and social exploitation as well as inequality. In short- it still opposes the basic principles of de-growth. Energy communities (EC) and renewable energy initiatives have the power to combat that through more sustainable and localised efforts. In this article we focus on how this is possible. We also ask what the exact relationship between de-growth and energy communities is. 

Source: https://www.resilience.org/stories/2023-10-18/how-community-energy-initiatives-can-be-an-effective-tool-for-degrowth/
What is de-growth?

In today’s world, the idea of growth and development is usually connotated with financial growth and increased output at all costs. This is the concept which is criticised by the idea of de-growth. De-growth focuses on ecological, but more importantly social well-being. Namely, to transform societies to ensure environmental justice. Due to recent geopolitical events, the fragility of our current energy system and the industry’s dependence on the current status quo, experts have realized that we need to dramatically cut down on emissions across all sectors and prioritize equity, inclusion and environmental justice. 

De-growth and citizen empowerment.

However, this discourse is now also reaching the general public. Citizens are becoming concerned with the current energy crisis. We hold governments accountable for providing access to energy in a just and democratic way. Some realize that this pathway, of putting all the responsibility on one organ and waiting for results, is futile. Many start to understand the empowering benefits of activist movements. These movements introduce the concept of a decentralized, but also autonomous and renewable energy production; energy communities. 

Working together?

The TANDEMS project encourages this citizen-led form of energy production. On the other hand, we realize the need for collaboration in order to achieve the sustainable goals of the de-growth movement. TANDEMS focuses on the cooperation between  municipalities, energy communities and citizens. A just energy system can be created only through consensus from decision-makers and citizens. This allows to establish a new and sustainable energy system, based on policies, targeted actions, equipment and independence. One of TANDEMS partners, ZuidtrAnt is a great example of how this collaboration is possible. They work together with multiple municipalities in order to meet the objectives of LEKP (Local Energy and Climate Pact). In Schoten, one of cooperating municipality, ZuidtrAnt offers information sessions, renovation guidance and shared renewable energy opportunities. The EC also helps to install solar panels, motivates citizens to invest in energy communities and organises intensive renovation programmes for whole neighbourhoods. 

The road to a strong, resilient and just energy system, led by citizens and supported by governments, which focuses on cultivating social and environmental well-being is a very long and complex one. It will take much more work, mutual understanding and changing of the current trends or ways of thinking in order to achieve this ideal scenario. Nevertheless the efforts that are being put by energy communities are very viable and give us glimpses to what the future can look like. 

How Municipalities Can Make a Difference in Energy Communities?

In one of our previous articles in this newsletter, we have touched on the topic of the importance of collaboration in energy transition. In this segment, we want to dive even deeper and zoom into the collaboration between energy communities and municipalities. Municipalities play a crucial role in supporting energy communities by providing guidance, resources and infrastructure to foster sustainable energy initiatives. That is why in this article we ask ourselves exactly how municipalities can become vital actors in the energy transition.

Policies, Regulations and Fundings.

There are multiple ways in which municipalities can assist energy communities. First of all, regulatory powers can create supportive policies and regulations. Additionally, they have the possibility to provide grants or subsidies for community-owned renewable energy projects. That helps to cover initial costs or incentivizes community participation. Lastly, municipalities can create an environment and platform, where new communal energy-oriented business models can flourish.  To exemplify, we would like to mention the municipality of Gaborovo. As mentioned by Todor Popov in the TANDEMS last internal inspiration session, the council of Gabrovo approved a decision, which allows the introduction of a cost-price model for clean energy. This step allows citizens and small businesses to invest in clean energy and incentivises them to contribute to the goals of energy communities. This municipal role is important, because it puts energy communities as valid actors on the energy market. 

Community Engagement

One of the biggest issues that many energy communities are currently struggling with, is community engagement. Governing powers can ease this stress by involving local residents in the decision making process related to energy initiatives. They can also encourage participation through public forums, citizen advisory groups or community meetings. Mechelen, for example, works closely with Klimaan, an energy community based in Belgium, in order to facilitate networking opportunities for energy communities. Mechelen creates platforms and events, which allows citizens to share and exchange their needs and expectations. On an internal scale, municipalities collaborate with energy cooperatives or consultancy agencies in order to jointly discuss what efforts can be made to bring citizens closer to the clean energy transition. To exemplify ZuidtrAnt and AGEM collaborated with the municipalities which house their pilot projects, in order to organise so-called ‘Learning History Workshops’, where both parties discuss their progress and collaboration. The workshops aimed to facilitate knowledge sharing, organizational learning and insights on how to continue collaborative efforts. 

Infrastructure

The last aspect discussed in this article (although definitely not the last way governments can support energy communities) is infrastructure development and technical expertise. Municipalities can choose various ways, including public procurement, in which they can contribute to adapting current infrastructure to energy transition or form new solutions. Allocating funds or seeking grants for infrastructure development is pivotal, This includes investing in solar panels, microgrids or wind turbines. It also, however, includes updating power grids to accommodate decentralized energy production or incentivising the installation of renewable energy systems. 

To exemplify, let us look at one of TANDEMS partners ZuidtrAnt, a Belgian based energy cooperative. ZuidtrAnt works on the energy transition by engaging in many different activities, one of them being giving coaching and support advice to citizens, who are planning to renovate the energy systems in their homes. In order to do that ZuidtrAnt works closely with municipalities (e.g Zoersel) in order to be able to offer citizens the most tailored and affordable advice as well as funds or subsidies provided by governments. Collaboration on this level and in this field is not only efficient, but also eases the process of energy transition. Citizens feel encouraged and secure to make big or small steps. 

Municipalities play a big role in the clean energy transition process. Nevertheless they also need guidance and support. That is why EnergyCites compiled a guide for regional or local policy and decision makers to move forward the energy transition of their communities. You can access it here. Collaboration between municipalities takes some work and adjustment processes, but it’s mutually beneficial and creates a sustainable future.  

Uplifting Energy Communities

In this article we want to introduce our recent inspiration, which is UP-STAIRS by Horizon 2020. This project accelerates the creation of energy communities and collective action. It is done by setting up One-Stop-Shops in 5 pilot regions across the EU. The TANDEMS consortium talked to UP-STAIRS representative, Ivanka Pandelieva-Dimova, who is the project manager at the Sofia Energy Centre.

What is UP-STAIRS?

UP-STAIRS is a collaboration of 11 oranisations from 7 European countries. It chose 5 pilot regions for setting up One-Stop-Shops (OSS), which facilitate the establishment of energy communities and engage citizens in the Energy Transition. More precisely the OSS ‘provides advice and support to citizens on organisational, administrative, legal, technical and financial aspects of energy efficiency measures in combination with renewable energy (PV or biomass)’. You can read more about the project here.

UP-STAIRS x TANDEMS

The focus of our inspiration session with  Ivanka Pandelieva-Dimova was on the pilot region of Asenovgrad in Bulgaria. Since TANDEMS also has two pilot regions in Bulgaria, Gabrovo and Burgas, knowledge exchange about legislative, financial or administrative obstacles and opportunities is very beneficial. Additionally the establishment of a One-Stop-Shop, where residents can get most important information in a single place is a great inspiration for TANDEM partners.

In Asenovgrad the OSS took form of a physical presence in a municipal building. It invited different profiles of experts such as economists, lawyers or technicians. It was clear that residents of the municipality preferred personal contact and face to face discussions to establish a good level of trust. The OSS directs its services to individual homeowners in multifamily buildings. This target group is also addressed in Burgas, as presented by Ivaylo Trendafilov during our second consortium meeting. The OSS established by UP-STAIRS focused on delivering to citizens many of the same concepts, which TANDEMS hopes to do. Namely, establishing home-owners associations, working together to form energy communities (also in multi-family buildings), inform residents of ways to install solar panels or other energy saving measures or educate residents on current policies and legislation.

Bulgarian energy communities: Gabrovo

OSS is a great example of a method to engage citizens. Nevertheless Bulgaria still faces regulatory obstacles such as finances and public awareness. For this reason alongside developing methodology to address citizens, efforts are also made to adapt the current legal or financial frameworks, which make it beneficial or profitable for citizens to invest.

Todor Popov, from the municipality of Gabrovo picks up the topic of energy transition in Bulgaria and explains Gabrovo’s own efforts. In October of this year Gabrovo Council signed a decision, which approves of a cost-price model for clean energy. Gabrovo will work on establishing a business model, which allows citizens and small businesses to invest in clean energy. It also ‘tests the ability of citizens and local authorities to work together and the potential of adapting existing opportunities to the goals of energy communities (e.g business models)’. This way citizens who invest in energy transition can understand how profitable this is for them. 

The development and adoption of energy communities is still facing some challenges. Nonetheless projects like TANDEMS or UP-STAIRS develop mechanisms to facilitate growth of energy communities. Thanks to that the potential for these communities to contribute to sustainable energy practices and local economic development remains significant. 

The vital importance of the intangible element of citizen energy: collaboration.

The implementation of energy communities, which, through their use of renewable energy, are fighting climate change, is challenging. It requires local policies, technological availability, space and funds. Nevertheless it also requires one element, which drives it all and that is community readiness and willingness for collaboration. In this article we will dwell into the importance of collaboration in energy communities (EC’s) and what it looks like in the field.

Why collaborate?

Collaboration is, as pointed out in the title, an intangible element of project work. In this case it means that it is the action of working with someone to produce something. Although the action itself is not material, it is essential and fundamental to the effectiveness of a project. Thanks to collaborative efforts, EC’s are able to benefit from bringing together diverse perspectives and expertise to help them grow. Additionally a community, which has a strong teamwork, enhances its resilience against disruptions and can withstand challenges a lot better. Of course working in a form of a partnership also has a larger environmental, but also policy impact. Namely, it allows for a faster achievement of energy transition goals.

Collaboration in practice

In energy communities collaboration can have different forms. Members collaborate with each other, EC’s have strong partnerships with local governments or municipalities and clean energy consultants create well established systems of local networks. To exemplify, we would like to present our partner ZuidtrAnt. They had a particular form of a collaboration, which resulted in the building of a strong foundation for cooperative heat energy. In April of this year ZuidtrAnt-W collaborated with the municipality of Ranst. They investigated the possibility of extracting heat from their canal and recovering residual heat from companies in an industrial zone. You can read more about it here. Thanks to the cooperation with Ranst, ZuidtrAnt managed to push forward their concept of shared energy further. Residents, employees and other interested parties got the chance to invest in a heating network. This furthered the energy transition efforts.

Collaboration and knowledge exchange

One aspect, which collaboration is a particular catalyst of, is knowledge exchange. A strong sense of cooperation among EC members invites new and existing members to contribute ideas, resources and efforts towards common energy goals. That is because community collaborations create spaces for open communication and information sharing. Energy communities such as e.g. Otterbeek by Klimaan and City of Mechelen, have regular meetings. There, members or their representatives have a chance to share their fears, but also come up with solutions, which contribute to a collective pool of knowledge.

Our partners also exemplified this principle during our consortium meeting in Doetinchem, where they presented the concept of a ‘Learning Workshop’. The aim of the workshop was to ‘capture the experiences of those pilots, which are already at an advanced stage of collaboration between local authorities and energy communities’. Participants were asked to share their key events during their time as members of an energy community. They reviewed the events and then worked together to establish the most important events and most notable lessons they have learned from those events. On a small, controlled scale, the workshop presents how a collaborative effort or community is the best vessel for the advancement of sustainable energy practices. 

To sum up, collaboration within energy communities is crucial for promoting sustainability, driving innovation, reducing costs, and building resilience against energy-related challenges. It’s a cornerstone for achieving collective goals towards a more sustainable energy future.

Personalised road to climate neutrality.

During the TANDEMS third consortium meeting in Doetinchem, we had the pleasure of having an online inspiration session with Dmitris Tsekeris. Dmitris is an Energy Scenarios project manager at Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe. He introduced our consortium to the ‘Paris Agreement Compatible Pathway for EU Climate Neutrality’ (PAC). More specifically he focused on its upcoming second version, which strongly intertwines with the activities of TANDEMS. In this article we give you an insight into the session through summary, reflections and analysis.

What is CAN?

In order to achieve complete transparency and understanding, we will first introduce the Climate Action Network and its main areas of activity. According to Mr Tsekeris, CAN is Europe‘s ‘leading NGO coalition fighting climate change’. It is a network of organisations, which work together to create joined lobbying campaigns to promote sustainable climate and energy policy development around Europe. It has over 180 organisations, which engage in information exchange, cooperation and coordinated development of international, national and regional climate strategies. For further information, you can visit their website here.

Introducing the PAC Scenario.

It is very important for all citizens to understand the PAC scenario and its repercussions on the energy framework of Europe. That is because the PAC scenario will have direct effects on our everyday lives. It foresees 65% greenhouse gas emission reduction by 2030 and a fully renewable  energy  system with zero emissions by  2040. Additionally, according to Tsekeris, PAC predicts an EU-wise coal phase out by 2030, fossil oil phase-out by 2040 and sale of internal combustion engine cars by 2035.

The PAC is a scenario, meaning it is a hypothetical prognosis of how Europe’s energy landscape should look like. Nevertheless it is a science-based vision and aligns with the Paris Agreement as well as the 1.5 degree global warming threshold. The first phase was developed between  2028 and 2020 and gives a first  look of what this agreement and the project itself would entice.

From 2021 until 2024 CAN together with other energy NGO’s are working on the second phase of the project PAC 2.0. This phase will present as separated scenarios for each country. This means that the PAC 2.0 will examine how much the scenario will cost in each country, what is the infrastructure needed to implement it and what will be the overall effect of PAC on each participating nation.

PAC 2.0 x TANDEMS

The second phase of PAC is relevant to TANDEMS, because it highlights the symbiotic relationship between the two projects.  On the one hand PAC gives TANDEMS the pathway along which the partners can plan their activities. On the other hand TANDEMS goals and achievements fit and align with the PAC objectives.

To give an example PAC 2.0 assumes the collection of national resources (such as financial situation, energy mix, energy spending, infrastructure potential etc) and the creation of an optimised pathway towards a 100% renewable energy with net zero emission by 2040 EU-wide. Similarly, in TANDEMS, each partner contributes to the analysis of a certain area, rates its potential for the introduction of renewable energy communities and implements projects. To exemplify, our partner Klimaan, has focused on the Otterbeek district, where they assessed the financial capacity of the neighbourhood and developed a sustainable strategy to install 729 solar panels on 70 homes. This way the infrastructure was altered on a regional scale and Otterbeek now not only has a higher mix of renewables, but also lower energy bills.

The PAC 2.0 project also expects to analyse energy infrastructure needs for every country and develop optimised pathway  scenarios, which ensure maximum flexibility, but still aim for climate neutrality. Although every TANDEMS partner who has a pilot project, is achieving those aims, the most prominent ones are Gabrovo and Burgas. Both are located in Bulgaria, which has a centralized national energy grid as well as complex policy restrictions for the intriduction of renewable energy communities. Together with EnEffect, the Centre for Energy Efficiency, both municipalities strive to pave the way for a more inviting pathway towards the clean energy transition.

What needs to happen next?

As mentioned before the PAC 2.0 scenario has a strong influence on the actions of the TANDEMS project. Our partners plan to  work or already are working on the actions that PAC assumes are necessary to reach climate neutrality. These include  triggering change, process improvement, electrification with renewable power production and decarbonization.

To exemplify, in order to trigger change or, more specifically, introduce societal or behavioural change to reduce energy demand, Klimaan, introduced the Klimaanwagens to their members. These ‘wagens’ are electric cars, shared among the members, which reduce the need for individual car ownership.  Another example, which fits into the decarbonization and technological advancement, is the Anaerobic Installation currently being built in Burgas. The installation will convert organic waste into energy through the use of advanced systems, engineered tunnels and specialized bacteria. You can read all about the installation here.

PAC 2.0 is a project, which provides organisations, members and like-minded guests from science and industry, in that TANDEMS, a practical guide to what steps to take to achieve climate neutrality by 2040. When published, it will provide a country specific, guided manual in five year intervals from 2020-2050 including social, economic, infrastructural, agricultural and transport related  activities for change. Most importantly PAC 2.0 highlights that reaching climate neutrality is a process, which requires regional, but collaborative approach. And that is exactly what TANDEMS also stands for.