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RESCOOPs Mobilizing European Citizens to Invest in Sustainable Energy

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - RESCOOP MECISE (RESCOOPs Mobilizing European Citizens to Invest in Sustainable Energy)

Reporting period: 2018-03-01 to 2019-02-28

The overarching objective of the MECISE project is to launch sustainable energy investments, as far as possible involving the participation of local authorities. The efforts during the last period of the project were focused on getting ongoing developments as far as possible towards “launched investments”.
Developing RES projects of multi-million investment is actually feasible for REScoops in most European Member States. Such projects have the potential to be the “driving force” for all kind of “spin-off” sustainable energy developments in the municipalities were they are realized. In accordance to one of the main objectives of MECISE, the consortium continued involving local authorities in its development efforts.
The experiences from the previous periods showed that triggering municipal EE-investments from joint RES developments with municipalities would not come by itself. It is only when RES developments of considerable size are well operational for some time, REScoops can justify the efforts needed for EE-developments. In this regard multi-million size EE-investments will indeed materialize in the coming years in those municipalities were now large RES projects are getting launched.
In order to meet another objective of MECISE, Ecopower has been setting up “Ecotraject” as a cost-covering service aiming at mobilizing its members to investment in an energy efficient and comfortable home. If successful, Ecotraject was thought to be adapted and replicated by REScoops in other regions of Europe.
Setting up a “REScoop dedicated financing vehicle” was the last objective of MECISE. This vehicle would have to foster collaborations between energy cooperatives. Ideally this new structure was thought to have a revolving character , making it flexible to step in and out of joint investments. By aggregating projects and funds from cooperatives, municipalities and institutional investors, this new structure would facilitate that citizens will eventually become important players in the energy transition.
At the end of the project, evidence is available for investments launched during REScoop MECISE for a total amount of 162 M€, of which about 50 M€ realized.
Wind projects Eeklo HMH, Amel-Büllingen, Alken, Lanaken, Mechelen, District Heating Eeklo, many PV projects in Belgium and the hydro projects in Wallonia are successful applications of the REScoop-Municipality approach leading to concrete investments. Klimaatscholen2050 and the strategic partnership with the city Leuven and the province of Vlaams Brabant have the potential to generate a constant stream of additional sustainable investment projects over the coming years. Law firm DLA Piper investigated the legal framework for REScoop-Municipality co-development and co-investment. In the future collaborations between REScoops and local authorities will be set up more professionally when following the “3CO response model”, 3CO referring to Control, Contribution and Consideration, the 3 relevant aspects determining the involvement of the public party in a collaboration with REScoops.
The concession agreement formally awarded by the city of Eeklo is a tangible result from the efforts performed under MECISE. The investment of the 1st phase DH infrastructure alone is estimated at 12 M€, the total investment including EE-investments at heat consumers rising to 20 M€. In this context he project website can be considered as first example of REScoops aggregating EE measures for municipalities.
Ecotraject did not attract sufficient participants to sustain such an EE guidance service on a permanent basis. The action of Courant d’Air targeting one specific measure (invest in LED lighting at home) resulted in almost 50.000 € of EE-investments in a short period of time and with limited effort.
REScoop MECISE SCE – Mutual for Energy Communities Investing in a Sustainable Europe – a European Cooperative Society was founded in Brussels on 18 October 2018. An investment committee was established in order to evaluate technical and economic feasibility of potential investment projects. From the investments developed under MECISE a first potential investment portfolio of roughly 100 M€ was compiled. Based on this portfolio, realistic schemes for the SCE to attract bank financing were elaborated by an independent expert in renewable energy project finance.
The EE-development work under MECISE made it clear that REScoops do not have sufficient know-how on board for mobilizing EE-developments in the short term. A solution might be to mobilize existing market players, such as ESCOs. These insights might be put in practice when the consortium Veolia-Ecopower decides on investing in 4 “heat clusters” near the planned trajectory of the future DH network. EE-investments of several million euro per cluster are estimated.
The Eeklo DH project is attracting the attention of other municipalities with climate ambitions. Highest potential for short-term realization is a DH in Mortsel and Edegem using waste heat from company Agfa-Gevaert. Feasibility of projects in Kortessem, Lanaken and Asse-Zellig still is to be investigated in depth. The technical and economic feasibility of DH projects largely depends on the level of energy efficiency (EE) of the future heat consumers. Realizing these project will thus not only comprise investments the DH infrastructure itself, but the EE investments at the side of the heat consumers will be equally important.
For Ecopower and Courant d’Air, the experiences acquired during MECISE form a solid basis for setting up structural EE investment activities, in particular in cases where REScoops and local authorities collaborate. Concrete examples are the energy metering actions in municipal building in Waimes, the development of ESCO-services targeting schools in Leuven (and later on for schools participating in Klimaatscholen2050 !) or targeting buildings to be connected to DH.
In Belgium the involvement of citizens in sustainable energy investments is already becoming “main stream practice” at local and regional authority level. Recently even a Flemish governmental agency, VEB, has designed a general tender procedure that is meant to be used by every public organization for tendering the use of their roofs for investments in PV. In this tender procedure direct citizen participation is a core criterion. The EU clearly defining ‘citizens energy communities’ and their role in the energy transition is strengthening this trend.
"Large scale PV investment near Seville thanks to ""Generation kWh"" approach of REScoop Som Energia"