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Laws on energy communities lag in SEE region amid public distrust

Laws on energy communities lag in SEE region amid public distrust

Date: June 14th 2022

Author: Peter Palčec

Category: En.vision

Topic: Electricity , Renewables , Energy policy

Many countries in the SEE region are lagging in the adoption of legislation related to the establishment of energy communities amid a public distrust of these citizen-led initiatives.

This was pointed out by several participants during a webinar organised by the German Friedrich-Ebert Institute on Tuesday, which discussed the value of local energy communities as a driver of the energy transition in eastern and southeastern Europe.

Energy communities organise collective and citizen-driven energy actions that contribute to increasing public acceptance of renewable energy projects and can provide direct benefits to citizens by increasing energy efficiency, lowering their electricity bills and creating local job opportunities.

The European Commission considers them to be a key element in achieving the green energy transition. It claims that by 2050, up to a half of all EU citizens could be producing as much as half of the EU’s renewable energy with the help of this type of citizen-led initiative.

“However, while the establishment of energy communities is widespread in western and northern Europe, in the eastern and southern European region the concept (…) is still new,” said Lars Holstenkamp, a researcher at the ecological research institute Ecolog.

One of the main reasons for this, he says, is that many countries in the SEE region have failed to integrate existing EU directives on energy communities into their national legislation, even though they are obliged do so.

The director of the European Renewable Energies Federation (EREF), Dorte Fouquet, said that due to the co-ownership nature of energy communities, people from former-communist countries mistrust this type of organisation.

Jelena Nikolic from the Serbian energy community Elektropionir pointed out that a lack of legislation and reliable information about renewables is hampering the establishment of energy communities in that country.

“In Serbia, people could install solar plants, but they were only allowed to use them for self-consumption. They could not sell the surplus energy produced. This changed with the renewables law that was adopted in April last year. However, now we are waiting for the adoption of relevant by-laws that will empower prosumers more,” said Nikolic.

Tsvetan Georgiev from the Bulgarian energy community Izgrei said that Bulgaria did not have any relevant legislation in place related to energy communities.

“The participation of citizens in energy communities is very new in Bulgaria,” he said, calling on the Bulgarian government to address the issue urgently.

However, he added that Bulgaria’s ongoing political crisis could result in the further postponement of this legislation.

Croatia does already have some legislation related to energy communities in place but it is too complicated and discourages a wider uptake of energy communities, said Goran Cacic from the energy community ZEZ Croatia. He added that ZEZ is currently discussing how to improve this situation with local authorities.



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