Proposals to facilitate the implementation of rural energy communities in Europe

Europe is at an energy crossroads in search of more sustainable, accessible energy with greater security of supply. In this context, renewable energy communities emerge as key actors in the decarbonization of the economy and the achievement of ambitious sustainability goals. Furthermore, projects located in rural areas contribute to rural development and the alleviation of energy poverty.

However, despite the obvious benefits, legislative barriers and differences in policy transposition between Member States may hinder its potential. The proposals presented in this article focus on these last two axes.

Opportunities for rural communities

Renewable energy communities are autonomous legal figures based on open and voluntary participation. These renewable energy projects, developed by and for the community, are effectively controlled by its members.

Energy communities have been identified by the European Union as an essential tool to transform the European energy system. The role of citizens, not only as consumers but also as prosumers, sharing and generating energy, can be a guarantee for a more sustainable, accessible energy system with greater security of supply.

If we focus on rural areas, renewable energy communities offer a number of advantages.

Differences between countries

Despite the clear technical, environmental, economic and social benefits of renewable energy communities in rural areas, their implementation is hampered by the uneven transposition of the single definition of the legal figure in European directives between Member States, such as is shown in the figure below.

This lack of coherence and harmonization in legislation has led to a fragmented and sometimes contradictory implementation of policies related to rural renewable energy communities across the European Union.

Member states according to each type of transposition of the legal figure of rural energy communities (CER).
Alberto Lozano

This variability in the transposition of the definition and associated policies leads to a fragmented market that creates uncertainty for investors and other economic actors, and in the communities themselves. Furthermore, it may result in inadequate or inefficient technical-economic solutions that do not reflect the specific needs and realities of rural communities.

Towards legislative harmonization

To address these challenges and fully realize the potential of rural renewable energy communities, moving towards greater legislative harmonization is essential. After an analysis of the matter, we propose a series of recommendations for legislators, researchers and promoters.

To maximize the potential of rural renewable energy communities in Europe, it is imperative to adopt a series of regulatory measures. It is essential to establish a clear and coherent definition of this figure, ensuring that all initiatives are aligned with uniform criteria.

Member States should create a regulatory framework with a clearly defined timetable that incentivizes the development of rural renewable energy communities, removing bureaucratic obstacles and offering fiscal and financial incentives. Likewise, a legislative proposal that allows cross-border cooperation between rural renewable energy communities can enhance the sharing of best practices and achieve economies of scale.

These policies must also ensure minimum services in energy communities that provide their members with prosperity, energy education, economic improvement and renewable energy. Its definition must be aligned with the currently existing one for the consideration of a rural municipality and the projects need to comply with certain technical characteristics that differentiate them from urban ones, such as production capacity or network stability.

If properly implemented, these recommendations can help overcome current legislative and regulatory barriers and maximize the potential of rural renewable energy communities across the European Union.

To compute the social, economic and environmental advantages and their contribution to the decarbonization objectives of the National Energy and Climate Plan, it is proposed to create a registry associated with each project that, in addition, helps to detect additional economic measures to support them.

In conclusion, rural energy communities must play an essential role in achieving the European objectives associated with a just energy transition. However, for them to play this role effectively, it is essential to address legislative barriers and ensure uniform transposition of policies across Member States. Only then can Europe fully harness the potential of these communities and ensure affordable energy for all.

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