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6. Conclusions and Recommendations

6.1. General Conclusions

There seems to be a steep increase in the interest in Energy Communities, related to the current energy crisis. Partly due to the increased energy prices and partly due to apparent vulnerability of the centralised energy system, many citizens see Energy Communities as a means to contribute to a sustainable transition as well as monetary savings, social benefits and autonomy.
In the countries that we have studied, few have fully transposed the definitions of REC and CEC into their national legislation. Even fewer seem to use the definition in the national discourse. Most often, they are simply referred to as Energy Communities (or a rather similar translation into the respective language) in which many different models are included. There are several attributes in which the communities differ, most prominently: organisational form, technology, energy sharing models and activities conducted. The combination of difference in transposition of the definitions and large disparity in models for energy communities renders a cross-model comparison rather sprawly and to an extent inconclusive. Instead, it underlines the importance of simple and clear definitions in both legal documents and general discourse. This will help clarify what possibilities and responsibilities apply to the respective model and simplify the decision of what model to choose when initiating a community.
Similarly, there is a large diversity of concepts and terminology used for community initiatives in energy across Europe. Both in the academic literature, general discourse and consultations, a wide range of terms are used, such as Energy community, Community Energy, Citizen Energy Community, Renewable Energy Community, Clean Energy Community and more. This exacerbates conceptual confusion and makes horizontal comparison of both policy recommendations and research findings cumbersome and less stringent. A reduction on the number of concepts as well as clear definition of what is encompassed in and required for each concept would facilitate more expedient policy analysis, recommendations and translation of lessons learnt.
Another important observation is that although interest in Energy Communities among the public is increasing, the public awareness of the concept is low, omitting both possible community initiatives and potentially important inputs to the public debate regarding Energy Communities.
Thus far, the studied countries have not found a conclusive way to circumvent the conflict between economic viability for the communities and fairness in shared costs for the collective grid. Without a simple, efficient as well as cost- and input-reflecting solution for electricity sharing, many potential initiatives are unviable and are either decreased in scope or never started. The choice of an electricity sharing model for each country should be individually assessed, based on factors such as population density, foreseeable expansion needs of collective electricity grid, and current energy mix.

6.2. Applicability in a Nordic Context

Even though there are many preconditions and circumstances that are relevant across the Nordic context, there are also country-specific conditions that need to be considered. Hence, the following section will be divided into a subsection with country specific observations and a subsection with observations that are horizontally applicable in the Nordic context.
The relatively low population density of Norway, Sweden, and Finland, demands a comparatively vast collective grid including transport of electricity over long distances to ensure security of supply to the citizens. Local production and consumption can help decrease the transport losses from centralised energy production as well as the need for grid expansion in remote areas, where a local energy community could act as a closed distribution system operator or DSO. Energy Communities can also improve the security of supply and resilience in remote areas, as exemplified in the projects on islands in Norway.
On the other hand, the cost of maintenance of long-distance transport lines may be unevenly distributed. However, this could be mitigated through both the electricity injected to the local distribution grid and the subsequent decreased need for transport of electricity.
A large share of the electricity production in the Nordic countries stems from RES, and there is a low inclusion of fossil fuels. This is especially true for Norway, while both Sweden and Finland also rely on nuclear power and Denmark had an inclusion of 26% fossil fuels in 2021. This seems to also relate to the progression of energy community deployment in the respective countries, seeing as one of the main drivers for starting/joining an EC is to support the transition of the energy system. Denmark has by far the highest number of energy communities while Finland and Sweden are on the rise. The development of energy communities in Norway is still in its cradle and one clear reason is that Norway is not an EU member state. However, another possible factor is the already high inclusion of RES.

6.3. Recommendations

Given our general observations, the context of the Nordic countries and the currently evolving knowledge surrounding Energy Communities, we present three recommendations to help enable Energy Communities without promoting an unfair division of costs.

6.3.1. Introduce Clear and Coherent Definitions of Energy Communities

Clear definitions in both legal documents and general discourse lessen uncertainties and hesitation in the initial phase of establishing an energy community.

6.3.2. Ensure Accessibility to Establish Energy Communities

Two of the main barriers to the deployment of Energy Communities identified are related to awareness and knowledge. Firstly, few citizens are aware of the possibility to establish or join an energy community, acting as a first hindrance to possible deployment of an unknown number of communities. Secondly, the knowledge needed to establish an energy community, both technical and judicial, acts as a barrier for many citizens that do not have the prior knowledge or the time to fully acquire the necessary know-how. To mitigate these barriers, we propose two main strategies:
  • Ensure clear and simplified legislation.
Counteract all risks of ambiguity. Partly, to provide an explicit and easily comprehensible framework for potential founders and members. Partly, to discourage geographically differentiated interpretations by e.g., local authorities or DSOs.
  • Promote support organisations.
Support organisations and/or networks can benefit the dissemination of information that raise awareness in the general population. They can also provide a platform for knowledge sharing through handbooks or pamphlets. Furthermore, they can act as intermediaries between inquisitors and competency.
These support organisations can either be privately run or organised as a state entity. For example as a “one-stop-shop” solution.

6.3.3. Enable Electricity Sharing

The possibility to share electricity within the community in an efficient and cost-effective/-representative way seems to be of key importance in order to increase the establishment of Energy Communities. The national context is very relevant when looking at the potential benefits of a more restrictive or allowing legislation regarding electricity sharing. Thus, a model that would fit all are neither viable nor recommended. Given the current state of the respective legislation, the following steps are recommended:
  • Enable electricity sharing through the collective grid, with clear and defined renumeration-schemes for the respective contribution to the collective grid, ensuring consistent calculations across regions.
  • Include room for experimentation or “sandboxing” in the legislation on electricity sharing.
    • One way of proceeding to do this is to ensure room in the legislation for experimental projects, through specified exemptions.
    • Policymakers could, possibly at a later stage, specify the conditions for the experimentation projects as well as what exemptions are applied. This ensures that potential experimental or sandbox projects will fit within the scope that the policymakers want to explore.
    • Allow for projects led by both prospective communities, DSOs, and other relevant stakeholders in the transition to apply for making use of this experimentation opportunity. This way, citizen and stakeholder-led experimentation ideas can be explored within the boundaries set by policymakers.
    • Assess whether further incentives should be included, such as project funding from grants.