In this first reporting period, the NEWCOMERS team developed an overarching theoretical framework based on polycentric governance theory, which assumes that decentralised forms of governance at different locations may contribute to effective governance in a specific issue-area. To operationalise this theoretical framework, we developed a set of 12 research hypotheses to be tested in the project. We further proposed a typology of business models used by new clean energy communities, distinguishing: local renewable energy generation and supply; innovative contracting and community-based products (including e- mobility); community energy storage; peer-to-peer energy trading platforms, and community energy aggregator business models. As a next step, we assessed the regulatory and other national conditions under which new types of energy communities emerge and operate, and compared them across the six partner countries. We also started to work with the 10 new clean energy communities that volunteered to serve as case studies. In early 2020, the local partners invited these case study communities for a first dialogue to establish a good working relationship and to collect the first data. Regarding the case study communities, a framework was designed to give a ‘thick’ picture of each, set in its local and national context, and this was subsequently filled in. While Covid restrictions made site visits impossible, it has been possible to interview stakeholders in each community online and to gather information on actors, technologies, processes and business models. Related work demonstrated that pre-existing technical skills are necessary but not sufficient for a well-functioning energy community, and that several vital non-technical skills typically had to be acquired in the process of setting up each community. ‘Learning by doing’ was found to be the most-used strategy for learning in the new communities. To study impact on energy-related behaviour, we made preparations for testing whether the provision of real-time feedback on shower behaviour has more pronounced energy conservation effects among community members compared to non-community members. This included the setting up of the GEN-I energy saving community. Online interviews were held with selected members of the 10 energy communities in order to get insights about motives for joining energy communities. Our analysis made clear that the most common motives are related to environmental concern and cost reduction and/or saving money, but that after joining the social aspects of membership also played important roles. Furthermore, a major survey was prepared among the members of the 10 communities to be launched in early February 2021. With this survey, we aim to collect information about the potential of energy communities to increase energy literacy and support for energy transitions. A cross-country survey among the wider public will be organised in spring 2021. In late 2020, the consortium launched the Our-Energy.eu
platform in order to raise EU citizens’ knowledge and awareness. It has been specifically designed to provide expert information in short interactive presentations.