REScoop – The energy transition to energy democracy

As a summary of the philosophy behind the REScoop movement, the REScoop 20-20-20 project produced a short animation video that uses the case of the Greek island of Sifnos as a metaphor for the rest of Europe.

Indeed, one of the objectives of this three-year project (2013-2015) was to document and promote some of the great solutions and examples of citizen mobilization around Europe to address the challenge of energy transition in an effective and participatory way. The real change is up to citizens, and you are not alone! All over Europe REScoops and other community power initiatives pop up. But what is REScoop?

REScoop is short for renewable energy sources cooperative and refers to a business model where citizens jointly own and participate in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. We also refer to REScoops as community energy or community power. REScoops do not necessarily have the legal statute of a cooperative but distinguish themselves by the way they do business. REScoops typically respect 7 principles that have been outlined by the International Cooperative Alliance:

  1. Voluntary and Open Membership
  2. Democratic Member Control
  3. Economic Participation and Direct Ownership
  4. Autonomy and Independence
  5. Education, Training and Information
  6. Cooperation among Cooperatives
  7. Concern for Community

REScoops are to be distinguished from financial cooperatives (FINcoop). Similar to a REScoop, the FINcoop issues shares to finance projects. But unlike REScoops the members of a FINcoop do not own the renewable energy projects themselves. Projects of a FINcoop are typically owned by a private company who uses the cooperative to get their projects financed more easily. Many FINcoops provide subordinated loans, putting the members a financially vulnerable position. To see how one must understand that subordinated debts typically have a lower order of priority in case of liquidation during bankruptcy. If the private company goes bankrupt, the installations are sold to pay back the loans. Because subordinated loans are only repayable after other debts have been pay, members of the FINcoop are exposed to a larger financial risk.

In a REScoop it’s the citizens themselves who own the renewable energy projects. Members do not merely get a dividend at the end of the year, they can also actively participate. REScoops typically provide their members with democratic voting rights following the “one person, one vote” principle. In many cases the members can also use their own renewable energy at lower prices. is the European federation of renewable energy cooperatives. According to us it’s only direct citizen participation that fosters social acceptance for renewable energy and leads the energy transition to energy democracy. Our federation does not support the FINcoop business model.

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