Community-based decentralized energy systems will be vital for achieving the energy transition in Europe

On October 10, 2012 Cooperatives Europe director Klaus Niederländer took part in an international strategy meeting of 40 European policy makers and experts from 15 European countries as well as Canada in the north of Denmark. This parliamentary hearing was organised by the World Future Council and the Climate Service Center, in order to push forward the renewable energy transition in Europe and on how to actually achieve it.
The internationally agreed climate change targets are one of the most pressing societal challenges of our time; to achieve them, a complete overhaul of the current energy system will be necessary, to make it sustainable, environmentally friendly and energy efficient. Thereby the choice and design of environmental policy instruments will play a crucial role. Equally important is to involve all relevant stakeholders that are responsible for implementing these instruments. The European regions will play a major role in making a major contribution to local economic development via clearly spelled out and implemented sustainable energy policies and measures.
Participants concluded that citizen participation and regional value creation from decentralised renewable energy systems (production, distribution and usage) will be the main success factors for the renewable energy transition, as can be seen in Denmark or Germany for example. People, communities and regions therefore need to become much more the center of attention of national and European policy makers.
In the last decade Germany increased its total renewable electricity share from 3 per cent to more than 20 percent. The vast majority of the investments were made by local players, be they individuals, SMEs or cooperatives.
“In order to see developments in Europe similar to those we have experienced in Denmark or Germany we will need national political frameworks that enable citizens and municipalities to profit from this transition” says Preben Maegaard, Director of the Nordic Folkecenter, the host of this conference. “Powering a region with 100 per cent renewable energy has been technically and economically feasible for a long time. But what is urgently needed are enabling political frameworks as well as a better combination of electricity and heat production”.
The conference also highlighted the emerging power of cooperatives for setting up renewable energy providers in regions around Europe. Klaus Niederlander, Director of Cooperatives Europe, stressed the importance of the right organisational form for the energy transition agents giving citizens a voice and active stake in it based on joint ownership and democratic decision making.

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