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.


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.