Go to content
Photos: Pixabay

5. Associated Benefits

In our country studies and in the literature reviewed a multitude of benefits have been associated with Energy Communities. Both financial, environmental, cultural, and social. In this chapter we present an overview of the most commonly reoccurring benefits, categorised according to whom the benefits primarily apply. Most of the addressed benefits are applicable to both RECs and CECs while occasional benefits primarily apply to CECs, and in those cases it is stated in the text.

5.1. Community Members

In accordance with the main drivers to join an energy community, the two predominant benefits presented by our interviewees are monetary savings and a sense of pride and/or satisfaction associated with contributing to the energy transition and increased sustainability. These benefits are mentioned in each country that has been studied and the aspect of monetary savings seem to be even more prevailing now, clearly associated with the energy crisis and the increased prices and risk of energy poverty.
Other benefits that are mentioned in many countries, but not all, are those of increased knowledge and awareness of renewable energy sources.
In remote and rural areas, the possibility to produce and share energy adds stability to the local energy supply. In Norway, one example is that remote islands are often subject to harsh weather conditions and subsequent power failures. The possibility for these areas to have local energy production, coupled with a microgrid which can be “islanded” (functional regardless of the collective grid) would facilitate electricity supply when the function of the collective grid is compromised.

5.2. Society

As previously mentioned, among the most evident benefits stemming from Energy Communities are the contributions to the transition to RES.
Energy Communities accelerate the democratisation of the electricity market and increase citizen autonomy in relation to other actors on the energy and electricity markets. The possibility to manage one’s own electricity supply, storage and sharing places the power into the citizens hands and gives them an increased leverage on the market.
Furthermore, the resilience of a decentralised and independent energy system has been presented. Less reliance on a centralised grid could help to mitigate the effects of outside disruptions such as cyber-attacks, sabotage on gas pipelines or weather-related disturbances.

5.3. Electricity Market

Regarding the electricity market and general energy system, the potential benefits can be divided into supply-related and demand-related contributions.
A majority of the discourse surrounding Energy Communities focuses on the contributions related to supply of electricity or energy in general. However, it is possible that Energy Communities could also provide demand-related contributions, both regarding decreased demand and demand flexibility. To our knowledge, few studies have been conducted on the subject, but it has recently received some traction. In a study from 2022, the authors conclude that Energy Communities are capable of developing demand-side solutions that are distinguished from government- and/or business-led approaches. Their analysis suggested that demand reduction via energy communities is challenging but possible. There is a limited range of possibilities, and it requires dedicated work to identify and exploit these possibilities. Regarding flexibility their analysis suggested that more configurational work is needed than for demand reduction, but it is also possible to contribute with flexibility solutions. The authors emphasised that future research is required (Barnes et al.  2022).
Barnes, J., Hansen, P., Kamin, T., Golob, U., Musolino, M., & Nicita, A. (2022). Energy communities as demand-side innovators? Assessing the potential of European cases to reduce demand and foster flexibility. Energy Research & Social Science, 93(102848). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.erss.2022.102848.
With respect to supply of energy and/or electricity, there are several ways that Energy communities could benefit the electricity market. Most commonly discussed are the contributions to an accelerated transition into RES, increased capacity and resilience, and support in congestion alleviation.
The role of Energy Communities in the transition to a fully renewable electricity production is often highlighted, both as a motive and subsequent benefit. The contributions to the transition are based on three main aspects: increased production of electricity from RES in Energy Communities, increased public acceptance of renewable energy systems in the public space, and a decrease in electricity demand. As previously mentioned, the last aspect is not yet substantiated and seems to depend heavily on factors such as share of self-produced electricity of consumption and initial motives for self-consumption.
The focus on local electricity production and consumption can help alleviate grid congestion through a decreased need for transport through the collective grid. In the Nordic countries this will often be dependent on what type of technology is used. Given that congestions in the Nordic grids often occur during the winter and the Nordic preconditions greatly reduce the effectiveness of PV-solutions during the winter, a high share of PV in communities may omit some of the overall positive effects on grid congestion.