Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, alternative ways to ensure energy supply, transition from fossil fuels to renewable energies, and energy independence are more urgent than ever. Suffering from rising energy prices, enterprises, but mainly SMEs, need support to reduce costs, increase energy efficiency, and invest in renewable energy self-production. Energy community cooperatives, more commonly citizen-driven initiatives, can also provide enterprises with an opportunity to contribute to climate change mitigation, to the transition toward a resilient energy system and better energy independence.
Andreas Brieger from SME United presented challenges SMEs are facing across the EU when it comes to energy supply and cost as well as measures needed to mitigate the energy crisis and foster energy transition for SMEs. Carlos Beracierto from the cooperative KREAN (Spain) presented EKIAN, a photovoltaic energy production plant for industry consumption. Giorgio Nanni from Legacoop (Italy), presented the RESPIRA program making available a cooperative supply chain of technical and financial partners for the creation of energy community cooperatives in Italy.
The conclusion from the session was that SMEs need support to engage in their own energy production. Energy community cooperatives provide an interesting model for mutualization and ownership, but SMEs need financial support and technical assistance in that process. One of the outcomes of the session was that the regulatory environment at the national level imposes still too many obstacles for energy community cooperatives to grow, despite the European Commission calling member states in its 2019 Clean Energy Package to develop concrete measures and policies for renewable energy communities (including under the cooperative form). One of the advantages underlined by the speakers is that energy community cooperatives bring democracy to the energy sector, giving “prosumers” (energy consumers-producers) an active role in deciding the energy price, etc.