New handbook for administrations supporting energy communities

Latest EC² deliverable offers clear guidance for a website

EC² has just published its latest deliverable, a co-created tool for administrations seeking to foster energy citizenship and the creation of renewable energy projects in their communities.

Developed by members of the Law and Psychology departments at the University of Graz and based on co-creation workshops with citizens, the Energy Communities Website Handbook is a comprehensive guide for public administrations to creating a website that promotes and supports energy communities. The handbook offers a clear structure for a website to provide valuable information and resources for individuals interested in energy communities, whether they want to join an existing one or create their own.

The deliverable also offers a design for a forum in which interested citizens can connect, share knowledge and build community: all needs identified by stakeholders in the tool’s creation process.

A co-creative process

The tool emerged from an extensive process of co-creation with citizens.

The initial round of workshops, held in Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, and Spain, gathered insights on the requirements for transitioning to renewable forms of energy consumption. Energy communities were found to be crucial in local and sustainable energy generation, but encountered numerous technical and organisational challenges. Therefore, the focus was on identifying the most commonly addressed features that facilitate this transition and the obstacles faced by practitioners. During the workshops, participants, including practitioners from municipalities, the energy sector, and energy communities, generated inventive concepts for tools to overcome obstacles and improve facilitation for energy communities, promoting energy citizenship. The most commonly requested features were clear information and networking opportunities.

With these findings, the researchers first re-evaluated previously identified tools to address the need for information. Basing the handbook on an existing webpage allowed them to evaluate the concept for usability and whether it promotes the ideas of energy citizenship and energy communities. And, indeed, a representative study conducted to evaluate this approach has shown that the willingness to participate in energy communities increases with clear and concise information about them, even when many people were unaware of their existence.

During the ongoing study on the webpage, practitioners were asked to share their expertise in a second round of co-creation workshops. Their ideas and refinements were integrated into the handbook and helped to focus on the information aspect. In addition, to facilitate structured and easily accessible exchange between active and interested parties, the team decided to use an online forum. A clickable mock-up of the forum was created to test the idea and was found to be useful in another survey.

Theresa Oswald, from the project team at the University of Graz, said: “Our research highlighted the need to provide clear, easily accessible information for citizens. We believe this handbook will be a useful guide for any organisation or municipality wanting to support energy communities and look forward to seeing the results”

Download the handbook