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Energy2011-2020 Coopaeratives Europe position paper

Energy2011-2020 Coopaeratives Europe position paper

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Published by Ray Collins

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Categories:Types, Business/Law
Published by: Ray Collins on Jul 28, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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COOPERATIVES EUROPE – the European region of the International Co-operative Alliance – is the biggest membership organization in Europe promoting the co-operative model of enterprise for sustainable economic progress with social objectives. It represents a force for economic growth and social change of 123 million member co-operators owning 160.000 cooperative enterprises and giving jobs to 5,4 million European citizens.

INTRODUCTORY REMARKS COOPERATIVES EUROPE welcomes the consultation on a new Energy Strategy for Europe 2011-2020, whose overall goal is to ensure safe, secure, sustainable and affordable energy for all. A co-operative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democraticallycontrolled enterprise. Co-operatives put people at the heart of all their business. Energy is a natural resource, whose smooth and equal management can only be guaranteed by a model of enterprise defending the collective interest without renouncing to the efficiency of the private form or enterprise. Co-operatives are owned and managed by their members; they are close to their members and can therefore deeply influence their behaviour: co-ops are a powerful instrument to improve a rational use of energy among citizens. Co-operatives are deeply anchored in their local community. This connection often allows them to create partnerships with local administrators and other stakeholders for the creation of a decentralized model of energy productiondistribution-consumption. As underlined at page 6 of the stock tacking document, ‘Public awareness-raising and acceptance have perhaps been underestimated for their impact on delivering energy policy”. Through collective action, the co-operative model supports people to work together to change their behaviour and become more environmentally friendly in a way that private enterprise cannot. Co-operatives have been defending citizens’ interest for more than one century: they have been providing services in areas where neither public nor private entities could act. Co-operatives have shown that they are able to adapt to the context evolutions and to provide state of the art solutions to citizens’ needs. Co-operatives can therefore play a key role in the Energy Strategy for Europe 2011-2020.



SPECIFIC REMARKS ON THE CONSULTATION - Modern Integrated grids. COOPERATIVES EUROPE shares the EUROPEAN COMMISSION’s point of view that energy infrastructures will be a key issue in the coming years. Co-operatives believe that the EUROPEAN UNION should invest in a sustainable economic development plan based on a hydrogen infrastructure and a continent-wide intelligent intergrid. In fact, the same design principles and smart technologies that made the Internet possible could be used to reconfigure the EU’s power grids so that people can produce renewable energy and share it peer-to-peer. This process, which would lead to a democratisation of the energy ownership through the creation of a decentralised form of energy use, could then be effectively managed though a co-operative structure. As for authorisation procedures, which are often delayed by local communities showing resistance to energy infrastructures in their neighbourhood, COOPERATIVES EUROPE highlights that co-operatives work at local level, in strict collaboration with local authorities and the local community, which is the owner of the business. The fact that citizens are the managers and owners of the business project sensibly reduces the resistance of local communities. Co-operatives are used to democratic practices, which they spread among their partners. - Making progress towards a low-carbon energy system. COOPERATIVES EUROPE is convinced that a reduction of emissions from energy production and use needs to be achieved. Co-operatives have demonstrated that they can largely contribute to this objective by: * REDUCING EMISSIONS. Concern for the community is the seventh co-operative principle: cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities. By their very nature they are therefore committed to the respect of the environment and the combat against climate change. There are many examples of co-operative businesses which have spontaneously committed to reduce their own energy consumption and carbon emissions. The consumer co-operative COOP DENMARK, for instance, has calculated the carbon footprint for all its shops and it is now on track with the plan to reduce energy consumption by 10% in 2012 in all of them. Agriculture co-operatives as well are working on this issue: for example all French ALFALFA cooperatives have been working together to reduce their CO2 emissions, focussing on the dehydration process (substitution of coal by biomass, on-field pre-drying...). In the framework of the EU ETS they were even able to sell carbon credits. As for housing co-operatives we will quote the example of SANDFORD WALS, a housing co-operative of 14 shared houses and 6 self-contained flat. SANDFORD’S residents act as collective landlord and therefore own, control and manage the estate. When refurbishment works were required in 2002 they committed to cut their CO2 emissions by 60%. Consultation with residents was central to the project: regular meetings and information provision were held and all major decisions had to pass majority vote, including the need to increase rents to fund work, which was approved by 87% of residents. SANDFORD has reduced its carbon emissions from 228 tons in 2003 to 91 tons in 2008, achieving the 60% target. The overall awareness of energy and environmental issues has increased yielding behavioural changes inside and out of the home. * REDUCING ENERGY NEEDS. Co-operatives have strict relations with their members, who are the owners of the business. They have privileged communication channels with them and can thus significantly influence their behaviour and let them adopt a low-carbon life style. For example ANCC/COOP, the structure which gathers together Italian consumer co-operatives, has carried out an educational campaign called ‘Risparmia le Energie’ (‘Save Energies’), which involved 1.500 consumer-member families all over Italy with the aim of informing and raising awareness about the topics of climate change and energy efficiency. The final objective of the



campaign was to change daily habits and consumption patterns of this community and of all the 7 million members and to educate them to a responsible consumption1. Italian consumer co-operatives have also set up a large energy programme involving their stores and business partners: firstly, they have adopted several energy saving technologies in the stores and fostered this policy within their business partners; secondly, they have installed photovoltaic panels on the roofs of their stores. Finally, they are considering the possibility to use the member loans to finance the installation of pv panels and create the largest Italian consumer co-operative in solar energy production. Several housing co-operatives are already applying innovative technologies and investing on net zero buildings. Other co-operatives are planning to build renewable energy installations for their members, which will also be used, for example, to re-charge their electric cars. Agriculture co-operatives as well are tremendously sensitive to a rise in energy costs as they are a relevant item costs in their budget. They therefore advice their member co-operators on best practice and equipments to reduce energy consumption. They jointly organise trainings to put into practice various programs for progress (such as the French Energy Performance Plan). * INCREASING THE PRODUCTION AND USE OF CARBON-FREE ENERGY. Co-operatives producing and/or distributing renewable energy are spread all over Europe. On the one hand there are co-operatives producing green energy as a side activity, for example by using biomass residues or putting pv panels on the roofs of their buildings. It is the case of Italian consumer co-operatives which were mentioned before. It is also the case of agri-cooperatives, which boast a true know-how on providing biomass. Their collective approach, often through co-operative unions closely linked to territories, enables them to create effective and stable relationships between sellers and buyers. On the other hand there are co-operatives having the production/distribution of green energy as their core activity: as members are the owners of the production plants, they can enjoy a 100% green energy supply with transparent tariffs; furthermore, profits are (partly) re-distributed among the members. ECOPOWER is a Belgian co-operative producing and distributing renewable energy. ECOPOWER currently ensures 100% green energy supply to 25.000 household in the Flanders region. Or again, BIOENERGIEDORF JÜNDE eG, a ‘Bio Energy Village’ under the legal form of co-operative which manages a Heat and Power Generator converting biological materials into electricity and heating power. This is then distributed to the inhabitants/members (70% of the population). In Jünde, not only the co-operative provides a technical connection to the energy network of the village, but it also fosters business as well as human connections: the farmers of the village, for example, are directly involved in the project as they provide the biological materials to the HPG. Another example is the electric CO-OPERATIVE “SAN FRANCISCO DE ASÍS” (Enercoop Group), which has recently launched “The Realengo”, the project to build one of the largest photovoltaic solar orchards in Europe. This installation is located in Crevillente (Alicante, Spain) and generates an annual output of more than 9 million kWh, thereby avoiding the emission of 8.500 tonnes of CO2 per year, 196 tons of sulphur and 29 tons of oxygen from nitrogen.

- Leadership in technological innovation. COOPERATIVES EUROPE agrees with the EUROPEAN COMMISSION that technological innovation will be pivotal for Europe to achieve its 20-20-20 climate action targets and to complete the 2020 Agenda for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. However,

The information has been delivered through an ad hoc website (www.reisparmialeenergie.ecoop).




innovation cannot be limited to energy ‘technology’, but should also focus on the development of new or sparsely used business forms to manage energy production and distribution. In France, for example, new territorial business forms were created, such as the SCIC (Collective Interest Co-operative Enterprise), which can perfectly deal with energy production in a sustainable and fair way. The SCIC involves consumers, producers and local authorities: in the SCIC Bois Bocage Energie, for instance, the co-operative buys woodchips from the farmers, dries them in specific buildings owned by local authorities and sell them to consumers. This scheme ensures advantages for all the stakeholders: the farmers can sell woodchips of their hedges, which otherwise would remain unused; local authorities indirectly protect the environment, as unused hedges would otherwise risk to be eliminated; consumers can enjoy 100% green energy. . - Protecting EU citizens. COOPERATIVES EUROPE agrees with the EUROPEAN COMMISSION that the internal energy market legislation has to provide consumers with high quality services at competitive prices and that the internal market should ensure that consumers do not pay more than what is really necessary for their energy consumption. However, in the current market context, the presence of few huge market players makes it hard to create a level playing field with other smaller energy producers and to guarantee that the citizens’ interest is really put forward. Co-operatives represent a valid alternative to large private investors: firstly, they are linked to the community where they are active, which ensures that their activity respects its specificities and needs; secondly, they are owned and managed by their members: this makes sure that tariffs are transparent and fair. Thirdly, co-operatives put people at the centre of their business and not capital; profit is not the final objective of co-operatives’ activities and it can be redistributed only partially: it is for this reason that in many areas with specific geographical features, where for-profit companies have not seen any interest in investing, co-operatives have installed their services which otherwise would not be available, preventing these regions from isolation. For example, there are 40 electricity users co-operatives which were created at the end of the 19th century in remote regions in the Alps, which were not served by energy supply networks created in urban areas. Nowadays they provide 100% renewable energy to more than 110 villages in 60 municipalities, with 51.000 users (20.000 of which are members), for a total of more than 300.000 citizens. They have an annual production of 300 million kWh and 400 gWh of power and they are able to offer rates which are 30% cheaper than the national average. They are now working on the creation of a consortium to sell energy produced in excess on the market and to enable communities to share electricity in case of need. Co-operatives are often small entities, and they are not always in the position to compete with large investors. However, their direct link to the community, the high quality level of the services that they provide and the fact that they are close to their members and customers reinforce their competitive advantage.

COOPERATIVES EUROPE welcomes the EUROPEAN COMMISSION’s public consultation; we are convinced that co-operatives can play a key role in the Energy Strategy for Europe 2011-2020 and we wish to take part in any further reflection on this issue.

Brussels, 2nd July 2010 END



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