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. 


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.