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Coopérnico's training and support to municipalities about RECs
Organisation : Coopérnico , Portugal

Our Transformative Action (TA) consists of:

(1) A training for municipality technicians to support local communities in creating Renewable Energy Communities (RECs) in their area;

(2) Direct support to municipalities, citizens and entities willing to create a REC: preliminary analysis and community engagement until the implementation phase. Right now we are supporting the local parishes of Trute and Vila Boa do Bispo.

Municipalities have a great potential to become central actors in this type of energy production and distribution model, which has been recognised by the EU as fundamental to a sustainable energy transition from fossil fuels and external dependencies.

EU Green Deal Policy Areas Addressed
Climate actionClean energy
Pathways followed
  • Ensure equal access to municipal services
  • Involve citizens through participatory implementation
  • Encourage local private and civic engagement
  • Capitalise on local economy and production
  • Create and close local value chains
  • Accelerate sustainability and innovation through public procurement
  • Guarantee equal access to information & digital services
Context

This Transformative Action is aimed at as many Portuguese municipalities as possible and is focused on overcoming the challenges that they and other actors willing to start new RECs usually face:

  • Lack of technical knowledge of renewable energy technology;
  • Difficulties to engage with local communities;
  • Complex bureaucratic processes to register new projects.

The implementation of RECs in liaison with municipalities will help to:

  • Tackle energy poverty;
  • Mitigate energy-related spending in the context of high market prices;
  • Improve the efficiency of inefficient building stock (public and private).
In Action

Regarding the training part of our TA, we have already done it two times. The first one included 11 municipalities: Almeirim, Alpiarça, Azambuja, Benavente, Cartaxo, Chamusca, Coruche, Golegã, Rio Maior, Salvaterra de Magos and Santarém. It was divided into two days (day 1, day 2).

The second one included 6 municipalities: Espinho, Oliveira de Azeméis, São João da Madeira, Santa Maria da Feira, Vale de Cambra and Vila Nova de Gaia (photos). The first day was dedicated to municipality technicians and the second day (probably in November 2022) will be dedicated to around 30 people from local associations, explaining the concept of an energy community with less technical details and including a World Cafe to train participants in the collaborative thinking process needed to create an energy community.

Regarding the direct support part of our TA, Coopérnico aims to support the municipalities in being catalysing stakeholders for the creation of RECs in their areas. As said above, we are already supporting two local parishes by (1) providing a preliminary analysis to identify future benefits and early participants in the energy community; (2) defining the internal regulations of the community to have a fair and sustainable business model to guarantee a successful operation of the project; and (3) identifying and supporting the creation of a legal entity for the REC.

Translated quotes from the presidents of the local parishes:

Coopérnico is supporting the Parish of Trute in the development of CERTrute AC through assistance and consultancy on its operation. Coopérnico is also developing studies for the diversification of energy production means complementary to photovoltaic production, such as hydro or wind power, or energy storage systems” (Jorge Fernandes, President of the Parish of Trute).

Coopérnico’s support has been crucial to enabling what’s intended to be a transformational change in the community, regarding energy and the exercise of energy citizenship. The support and integration in Coopérnico have allowed the Parish Council to be aware of concepts, projects and initiatives with transformative potential for the reality of the municipality and the community - citizens and institutions. The support of Coopérnico in the process of creating the renewable energy community and in the creation of a cooperative has been fundamental for the success of the initiative and, above all, to enable the Parish Council to work in the engagement of citizens and the community” (Miguel Carneiro, President of the Parish of Vila Boa do Bispo).

Integration

Besides the collaboration with municipalities, local parishes and associations, Coopérnico has collaborated until now with Energaia – the energy agency for the municipalities of the southern Porto metropolitan area -, the Compile Project, the Mpower project, Energy Cities and CIMLT – the intermunicipal community of Lezíria do Tejo – to deliver the training.

Regarding the direct support to municipalities, the energy community in Trute is also integrated into a program by Cleanwatts called ‘100 Aldeias’. In the case of Vila Boa do Bispo, the figure of a Public Interest Cooperative (a kind of cooperative where public institutions participate) has been used for the first time in Portugal in the context of the creation of a Renewable Energy Community. The parish is also a member of the Smart Villages Network and its project Smart Village XXI, in the category of 'come along' village. The municipality used the model developed by the project to draft its smart development strategy called #VBBzero, which will now be put up for public discussion in local councils and citizens' forums. The Parish Council is also associated with RURENER, an association of European scope for the promotion of energy transition in rural areas, collaborating in benchmarking projects and sharing of good practices, as well as the transfer of knowledge and its application. Briefly, the creation of the CER contributes to the objectives of the #VBBzero smart development strategy.

Results

Regarding the training, there have been 2, involving 17 different municipalities, with a total number of participants of 40 (16 in the 1st, 24 in the 2nd). The training has built capacity within municipalities, the lack of which had been identified in previous events by Coopérnico as one of the main difficulties in kick-starting energy communities in Portugal and contributed to reducing local communities’ dependencies on third-party entities to start new renewable energy communities.

Regarding the direct support to energy communities, no result can be reported, as they are still not implemented because of normal bureaucratic times.

Impact

Expected impacts:

Of the training:

Increase involvement of local communities in the implementation of new renewable projects, from an economic and ownership perspective; therefore, facilitating the transition toward a more distributed, inclusive and cleaner energy system.

Of the direct support:

  • Contribute to the municipalities and communities' carbon neutrality goal;
  • Immediate supply of more economical energy to the community;
  • Local energy production that brings more energy resilience to the community in situations of disaster, medium/high power cuts, etc.;
  • Financial gains for families and companies;
  • Valuing and projecting the territories and its institutions and companies as Champions of the energy transition;
  • Specifically to Vila Boa do Bispo:
    • Contribute to the awareness and integration of citizens, institutions and companies in the REC. Objective: at least 20 delivery points by the end of 2023;
    • Participation of citizens in a more democratic energy model and improvement of conditions for the development of social, cultural, sports and civil protection responses in the parish through the entities involved in the REC.
    • Contribution to carbon neutrality goal being calculated in partnership with the University of Aveiro;
    • Power to install: 40 kWp;
    • Savings: 5 175 €/yr
    • Self-sufficiency to attain: 46%
    • Avoided CO2 emissions: 26 tons/yr
    • Buildings to involve: 5 and seeking to increase (Local Volunteer Firefighters; Parish Council building; Gymnastics Pavillion; ‘Casa do Povo’ 1; ‘Casa do Povo’ 2)
Challenges and lessons learned
  • Information to the population is key so that especially older citizens have confidence in the RECs. The formal or informal involvement of institutions and citizens is also important to get important input;
  • Identifying early adopters that have the potential to "evangelise" the rest of the community is an important element to achieve community mobilisation;
  • The involvement of non-profit institutions is essential to involve civil society and make the initiative perennial;
  • Quantify and clarify the impacts, gains and costs of this type of initiative so that it is easy for people to understand what they can gain and how they can contribute.
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Contact

ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability
European Secretariat

Leopoldring 3
79098 Freiburg
Germany

Tel.: +49 (0) 761 – 368 92 0
Fax: +49 (0) 761 – 368 92 19

E-mail: info@sustainablecities.eu
Website: www.sustainablecities.eu

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