Skip to main content

Triggering Sustainable Biogas Energy Communities through Social Innovation

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ISABEL (Triggering Sustainable Biogas Energy Communities through Social Innovation)

Reporting period: 2016-01-01 to 2017-06-30

Community energy (CE) has the potential to disrupt the energy system directly catalyzing the transition to a low-carbon EU economy. The term 'community energy' covers a range of collective actions, with an emphasis on projects involving local engagement, leadership and control, and where there is a benefit to local communities. Even though community energy is not new (especially in certain Member States with community tradition), there is undoubtedly a momentum both at EU level and at national government level as it becomes apparent that low-carbon targets cannot be realized without the uptake of community energy.

In addition to displacing fossil fuel consumption by increasing Renewable Energy (RE) generation, CE projects offer wide social impacts. These range from increased acceptance of renewable energy developments, improved awareness of renewable and sustainable energy technologies and issues, faster uptake of low carbon technologies and sustainable/pro-environmental behaviours. CE is not only expected to deliver more locally appropriate installations than commercially-led projects, but is also anticipated to bring attendant benefits including increased acceptance of RE technologies, domestic uptake of renewables, awareness of sustainable energy issues, more sustainable energy consumption practices and enhanced social cohesion. Community-based renewable energy has the potential of reducing risk for all actors involved in the local energy supply chain and can increase actual availability and usability of feedstock . CE projects are practical, multi-faceted and locally-specific means for awareness-raising with a far reach to a range of stakeholders, considering the socio-cultural ways in which opinions are formed.

The ISABEL project aims to strengthen the development of sustainable biogas production-consumption systems around Europe by taking full advantage of sustainable biogas' growth potential. By introducing Social Innovation and engaging all types of stakeholders at regional/local level (biomass owners such as farmers and breeders, biogas producers, local/regional authorities, NGOs, citizens (consumers), etc.), the project is all about promoting, stimulating and supporting the creation and operation of community energy initiatives. Such bottom-up initiatives can bring multi-dimensional (economic, environmental and social) benefits to the local communities.

ISABEL activities are implemented in 3 regions (Baden-Württemberg in Germany, Yorkshire and the Humber in the UK and Central and Eastern Macedonia & Thrace in Greece) all of them representing territories of an increased biogas interest for different reasons.
- Review of good practices, tools and key factors that facilitate or hinder for Social Innovation and Community Energy approaches in Europe
- Analysis of the biogas landscape in the 3 targeted countries to map the relevant policies, incentives, operational practices and regulatory/licencing framework that foster the energy production
- Analysis of the public perception on biogas, its benefits and implications at the 3 targeted regions to get valuable insights on the local actors’ interests, thoughts and concerns regarding the implementation of biogas community energy initiatives.
- Development of a pool of Social Innovation and Community Energy approaches with an application potential on Biogas in each of the 3 regions.
- Development of a stakeholder engagement strategy for each region addressing the region’s characteristics (e.g. level of maturity and acceptance, etc.) and the experience gained through close interaction with the local actors.
- Design and implementation of a wide range of activities (direct meetings during field visits in biogas plants and farms, local workshops and meetings with village councils, email/phone communication, etc.) to inform, stimulate and motivate local actors in the 3 regions regarding biogas as well the community energy concept.
- Establishing close collaboration with 9 motivated and committed communities (3 in Germany, 3 in UK and 3 in Greece) supporting them to define their vision and strategy (including an initial action plan) towards the setting up and operation of energy communities.
- Implementation of a wide range of support activities the motivated and committed communities towards the implementation of the initial action plans
- Design and development of on-line tools aiming to support the creation of energy communities in Greece, which are publicly accessible through the project’s web portal.
- Development of a monitoring and assessment methodology based on both socio-economic and environmental KPIs to be adjusted and applied by the regional partners.
- Interaction with policy makers during the partners’ participation in national and international events,
- Contribution to public consultation on a new law under the Ministry of Environment and Energy on the creation of “Energy Communities” in Greece
- Design and development of the project web portal (its content is offered in English, Greek and German, while an overview of the project’s objectives and activities is also available in French.
- Setting up of the project’s social media accounts
- Deployment of a wide range of dissemination and communication activities.
- Elaboration of a “Data Management Plan”, covering the data management life cycle for all datasets to be collected, processed or generated by the project;
ISABEL partners emphasised on enhancing the portion of sustainable bioenergy within the final energy consumption by deploying a great variety of well-customised biogas community-building activities and contributing to the empowerment of relevant supply chains at local and/or regional level. Close interaction with local stakeholders in the 3 targeted regions to inform, stimulate and motivate them, we have directly and actively contributed to the animation of 9 new biogas communities (in total).
Moreover, a wide range of activities have been deployed to support the newly formed biogas communities ranging from exploring suitable locations for building new biogas plants and analysing the energy potential over to relevant techno-economic analyses and studies, environment impact assessments as well as knowledge transfer and awareness raising campaigns. These services will provide the much-needed support and evidence that these biogas communities require to effectively implement their action plan and achieve their set goals, harnessing the potential of social innovation to surpass potential barriers and disablers within their local, regional and national contexts, in line with the expected impact of the project.
Indeed, it is through the deployment of these meaningful services, complemented with further awareness raising and warm-up activities, that we expect to significantly contribute towards:
- improving access to suitable feedstock by introducing a community-driven governance system that fosters supply chain integration;
- better planning and off-loading initial transaction costs, facilitating the design and implementation of viable and sustainable supply chains;
- building skills and creating leadership;
- better understanding on community biogas initiatives; and
- reducing the perceived risk involved in community biogas ventures through joint ownership and risk sharing, thus preparing the ground for future investments.
ISABEL project logo
ISABEL flyer (page 1)
ISABEL flyer (page 2)
ISABEL project identity