A renewable energy community is a group that is legally formed and operates based on voluntary participation. It is controlled by individuals or organizations who are located near renewable energy projects owned by the community. The members of this community can be individuals, small businesses, or local government bodies such as municipalities. The main goal of a renewable energy community is to benefit the environment, economy, and society in the areas where it operates, rather than focusing solely on making financial profits.
For example, look at the energy cooperative EnerGent in Belgium. Many people in the neighbourhood live in rented apartments and older houses that may not be suitable for the installation of private solar panels. However, EnerGent has found a solution for this problem. The project ‘Buurzame Stroom’ (‘neighbourly renewable electricity’) has installed solar PV panels across a district in Gent, to increase renewable energy production in the district and set up an innovative business model for collective self-consumption.
Another example is the Middelgrunden Offshore Wind Cooperative in Denmark. In Middelgrunden, Denmark, the Middelgrunden Offshore Wind Cooperative (co-owned by 8,800 citizens) owns half of the 20 offshore wind turbines, which altogether produce around 99,000 MWh per year, providing electricity to more than 40,000 households in Copenhagen. When citizens participate directly in the capital investment in offshore wind they not only have some dividends from it, but primarily benefit by using the renewable energy themselves and use the revenues to provide cooperative services such as electric car sharing, renovation projects, or raising awareness about the energy transition and energy demand.