Second wave of energy community open days spark energy citizenship

Energy communities in Estonia, Slovenia and France have opened their doors to local citizens as part of the EC² project.

After the success of the first EC² energy community open days in the UK, Spain and Italy, three more open days took place across Europe with the goal of helping citizens understand how they can become more engaged in energy issues with practical and inspiring examples.

In January, around 80 people turned out on a bright sunny day for the event in Pourges ecovillage in Ariège, France. Participants were able to visit the community’s renewable energy installations and hear about their sustainability practices, with the understanding that energy citizenship is a holistic concept that also includes sustainable consumption behaviours. The local citizen energy association, Énergies Citoyennes Locales en Ariège, also gave a presentation on how they are supporting citizens to engage with the energy system. At lunchtime, participants enjoyed a delicious locally produced, organic lunch, a welcome pause to discuss their experiences and strengthen local relationships.

Citizens enjoying the sunshine in Pourges

Meanwhile in Slovenia, on February 10th some 30 people gathered in Mokri Potok to witness a real-life example of a transitional off-grid community. Mokri Potok is currently the only residential settlement in Slovenia that is powered 100% on renewable sources of energy. Even though the project is still in early stages of its development people living there were able to share their experiences and tipson how to practically reduce usage of energy and materials in everyday life.

The day started with greeting with tea and coffee which was followed by lecture on energy sustainability. The presentation included the topics such as the environmental benefits of building with local natural building materials, energy saving during construction, and waste reduction. Other issues discussed were the importance of bioclimatic architecture, building with the right exposure to sun to reduce energy consumption, and how to further reduce personal ecological footprint with use of high-tech solutions in solar systems to local organic farming. After the lecture and discussion followed a time for home-made food and connecting with people. The open day ended with visiting individual houses in which more detailed questions were answered regarding the lifestyle and technologies used in off-grid houses built with local natural materials and short tour of the permaculture gardens in the making.

Finally, in Estonia the energy cooperative Energiaühistu offered an open day on the theme of the impact of renewable energy in local communities. Explaining the possibilities for citizens, organiser Joosep Verme said, "Community energy does not necessarily mean that you have to do everything yourself from start to finish, but in cooperation with solar and wind park developments, you can find solutions that are beneficial to the region. For example, a cheaper electricity price or the addition of industrial companies that need renewable electricity and create new jobs."

Open day in Estonia

Across the span of six events, the open days have inspired almost 200 citizens to rethink their relationship with the energy system and explore the possibilities offered by community-led energy projects. The open days have been among a range of tools designed by EC² to spark energy citizenship in localities across Europe, alongside the EC2 Twinning Programme, the Community Energy Academy and Citizen Empowerment Kits.