Retrofits, renewable energy & energy communities in the Balkans

Renew together (1)

How to renew cities with citizen-led renewable energy and building retrofits? Energy Cities and RES Foundation hosted an mPower webinar to help municipalities and communities across the Balkans harvesting renewables together through cooperatives or energy communities. The event included the Serbian Roadshow supported by the European Climate Foundation and with precious input from RESCoop and Friends of the Earth Europe.

Watch this video-digest to get inspired by people who initiated community energy. With their best practices, you can start tackling technical, legal, financial and policy challenges that come with ambitious and community-based energy actions – and you will gain confidence in doing that together with your community partners.

It turns out that when it comes to energy communities and retrofits for renewables there are common key ingredients for success across Europe, whether in EU member states or in the Western Balkans: Citizens can have an active role in the transition to renewables as prosumers. And they are more and more knowledgeable about it. Increasingly, they seek ways of capitalising on the abundant potential of renewable energy, falling costs of technology and of digitalisation. All this is, against the background of a favourable EU legislative framework, is making it easier to work together with neighbours and local communities.

Local governments, which are still learning to get into new roles when it comes to participative and renewable energy production, are finding themselves sandwiched between the established energy players, on the one side, and – on the other – by the growing interest and demand from their own citizens and communities for support and solutions to sometimes challenging local circumstances, including building trust, effective but democratic decision-making, uneven capacities for investment, legal conundrums etc.

What seems apparent from the contributions of some 100 participants in our two-day webinar both in Member States and in the Western Balkans, is that those who wait for an “enabling environment” will miss out on the action, and those who already act actually set an example of what is possible and can inspire others (including legislators) to follow their steps. Everywhere, energy community trailblazers find themselves running an extra mile to find ways of coping with varied challenges demanding versatility and perseverance. The very least that local governments should do is listen carefully to their energy community entrepreneurs, prioritise fixing the regulatory and administrative bugs in the system where possible, and realise that their strongest assets in energy transition are their people: trust them and work together. The webinar has also proven that network beyond city borders is crucial to push for better, citizen-driven energy policies.

It’s worth remembering that the clock is ticking, and we need to act. As we consider the challenges of democratic, shared action on renewing together, big business is eying up our most attractive rooftops and is traditionally more agile in seizing opportunities like this, especially in the Balkans. So, begin renewing together now to reduce risks, build trust and ensure the financial and social returns on investment – for the long-term benefit of all citizens and for making our cities more liveable places.

Cross-border cooperation for renewable energy: Nis and Burgas join efforts

During the Regional Learning Event last April, the political leaders of the City of Nis (Serbia) and the City of Burgas (Bulgaria) made their new partnership official. By cooperating, both cities demonstrate their strong political commitment to achieving the objectives of the European Green Deal. Renewable energy and the involvement of citizens in its production will be a focus in this joint adventure carried out in the framework of the mPower ACTIVATE programme.

Presentations | Spotlight on Serbia

Presentations | Spotlight on Serbia

Sara Giovannini, Energy Cities

Zoom on a young energy community: Strasbourg Energy Brewers

Gerard Pol Gili, Strasburg City Council & Metropolitan Area (France)

The cooperative voice

Ana Džokić and Marc Neelen, Energy cooperative Elektropionir (Serbia)

Presentations | Renewables and community energy: Balkans and beyond

Scaling up Energy Communities in Bulgaria

Teodora Stoyanova (ECF)

ZEZ community energy projects

Mislav Kirac (ZEZ)

Citizen energy in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Vedad Suljic (REIC)

Capacity-building for municipalities: overview of legal and organisation forms for energy communities

Zoran Kordic – ZEZ (Croatia)
Daan Creupelandt – (Europe)

Presentations | Retrofitting and citizen involvement: Learn from your peers

Citizen-led renovation in the UK and the EU

Laura Williams, Carbon co-op

Collective self-consumption: Inspiration from Sztum energy cluster

Michał Mroczkowski, Sztum (Poland)

Success stories from Križevci and Zenica

This event has been organised by Energy Cities and the RES Foundation, with additional support from European Climate Foundation, RESCoop and Friends of the Earth.