Meet the Energy Communities

In the second instalment of our Meet the Partners series, we’re hearing from two of our practice partners: Torri Superiore in Italy, and Buurkracht in the Netherlands.

EC² consortium deliberately brings together not only research and academic partners, but also communities on the ground, understanding that they bring real expertise in what it takes to actively engage citizens in alternative models of energy production and consumption

Torri Superiore is an ecovillage community located in a beautiful medieval village in the north of Italy, with its own energy cooperative. Buurkracht - “neighbour power” in Dutch - is a social initiative that connects neighbours to help them improve their local area. From Torri Superiore we heard from Lucilla Borio, and we spoke to Djoera Eerland from Buurkracht.

Why did you get involved in EC²? Why are energy citizenship and energy communities important for the low-carbon transition?

Torri: We were invited to engage in the EC2 project by GEN Europe, the ecovillage network of which we have been active members since 1998. We accepted because we are interested in the topic of energy citizenship and are willing to engage in the research that EC² is developing.

Buurkracht: Buurkracht believes in the strength of neighbors. That is also the meaning of our name. ‘Buur’ means ‘neighbor’, ‘Kracht’ means ‘power’. We believe that together they make things more beautiful, better, safer, more fun or greener. And thus increase the social network and resilience in the neighborhood. Buurkracht centers around connection and engagement. Because only by doing things together does real connection arise.

Buurkracht finds initiators, connects neighbors and inspires and supports them to take action. Local residents are now working in almost 600 neighborhoods in the Netherlands, mainly on energy and climate adaption projects. We want to increase their impact by broadening in other relevant neighborhood themes and upscaling.

We are continuously improving the approaches and tooling we use to support neighborhood initiatives. Therefore we are very interested in joining EC2 to gain new insights and hopefully get introduced to new tooling and ways to connect and activate communities to participate in the energy transition. In return we will share our own experiences, knowledge, tooling and so on.

Why are energy citizenship and energy communities important for the low-carbon transition?

Torri: The transition to a low-carbon society is a challenge of epic proportions both at the individual and the collective level. Phasing out of fossil fuels will not be a simple, linear, or smooth process as there are huge interests involved and deeply rooted attachment to the so-called BAU (business as usual) lifestyle. Oil extraction has given us enormous advantages that we are not totally ready to renounce, and even to understand at a deep level at the moment. Becoming aware of the necessity to actively get involved in the transition process is a fundamental step for an energy citizen, and joining forces with our neighbors and allies will bring us closer together, giving birth to the energy communities of the future. Together we are stronger, and the challenge looks just a little bit less scary.

What's one thing you're excited about for the EC² project?

Buurkracht: We are really excited that this project is not just about acquiring scientific knowledge but is also dedicated to translating this into practice by giving policy recommendations and developing and testing tools for citizen energy collectives.

Torri: We look forward to cooperating with universities, research centres, communities of practice across Europe, and to share our 30-years long experience of a small ecovillage created in an abandoned medieval stone village, an energy-saving operation of urban recycling that has lasted over 20 years.

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