Energy communities, a common project

As many of you know, last Thursday 16th September was the Conference “Energy Communities: Citizen Participation in the Energy Transition“, promoted by MITECO and IDAE. Surely you are aware that in Turning Tables, through “Vergy”, we are immersed in the development of Energy Communities in Spain. So we could not miss this opportunity.

I personally was unable to attend for scheduling reasons. However, Alfredo Rivela, CEO of Turning Tables, was present. And, thank God he was there, because, as he told me, it was a great opportunity to meet with fellow adventurers such as at Sapiens Energía, EnerCoop and Km0, among others. For my part, I was only able to join in via streaming, but I was able to share some conclusions and generate conversation.

First of all, and I don’t want to sound like I’m pandering to anyone, but I’m glad that something like this has been done. What’s more, I’m excited about it. This Energy Communities thing, which a while ago were two words that made little sense to most people, is snowballing into a bigger and bigger thing. Non-profit associations, businesses, citizens and the government are putting enormous energy into something that, I am sure, will have a huge impact on our country.

Every day we see more and more examples of Energy Communities in Spain, among which is the one in Crevillent, which was presented at this conference by Joaquín Mas, Managing Director of EnerCoop. As a friend of mine would say, “impressive what they are setting up there”. It looks very promising and we wish them all the luck in the world. They have ambitious objectives from which, I am sure, we will all learn a lot.

Why support Energy Communities? Sara Aagesen, Secretary of State for Energy, made it clear: “citizen participation is key to success“. We must stop being mere consumers, and become key players with a voice.  We must take advantage of the millions coming in (around €1230M if I am not mistaken) and lay the foundations that will allow us to implement a new energy model that is more sustainable, fair, inclusive and collaborative

These are certainly wonderful-sounding words, but by no means an easy road to travel. IDAE Director, Joan Groizard, shared with us 4 key points around where the Ministry’s strategy for achieving its objectives revolves:

  1. Creation of an ecosystem to support Energy Communities, which is based, mainly, on 3 phases: Learn, Plan and Implement. Each one of them with its own objectives and specific resources.

A strongly Irish-inspired model, or at least that’s what I understood after listening to William Walsh, CEO of SEAI, the Irish Energy Agency. An approach that, to my ears, makes a lot of sense and has a lot of potential. 

I would also like to add an idea I heard the other day from a colleague, who talked about the possibility of allocating budgets to the Communities as they complete each of these 3 stages. It could be a good way to incentivise and control spending, something with great potential.

  1. Creation of what they have called “Community Transformation Offices”, entities that, it seems, assist citizens, with a more pedagogical role, in the creation of Energy Communities. 

Personally, I really like the fact that we have something like this, because I believe in its importance. Over the last few years, at Vergy we have worked with many citizens, and it is amazing to see the impact on people’s awareness of how they relate to energy, and their ability to take control of it. 

  1. Knowledge and experience network, which allows us to identify good practices and share experiences among all those who are or want to promote Energy Communities. Count on us, IDAE!
  1. Not only financial support, but also support in other areas of great relevance, such as the legal area, or the business model

I think I’ve said this before, I love when I hear about long-term sustainable business models, and not just about subsidies without any reason.

That said, there is a lot of work to be done, but I believe that as long as we accompany these points with agility and, above all, action, we will be moving in the right direction. What do you think? You know that I like to listen to other people’s opinions.

It seems that a huge machinery around Energy Communities is being set in motion and, I insist, it is something I am very excited about. I see an ambitious and collaborative ecosystem eager to make the most of this new revolution we are living. I hope that we will be able to translate words into action as soon as possible, and that the administrative barriers that some of us suffer from will not continue for much longer. 

I would like to thank IDAE and CIDE for giving visibility to the work we do at Turning Tables and Vergy, and all the institutions that were present yesterday, through different channels, and that are doing their bit to ensure that the Energy Communities take shape. Each with their own model, their own vision, their own way of working, but all with the same intention: to conquer small realities that end up having a massive environmental, economic and social impact.

I look forward to talking to you again very soon. Until then, I leave this door open for discussion and exchange of ideas.

Rafael Bahamonde.