ECCO is growing, but is hampered by lack of clarity about how to interpret the EU ‘Clean Energy package’ Directive

The ECCO project began in early 2018. In the first project period, we ensured that all project partners were on the same page with a clear understanding of the ECCO project and its goals. We wanted more ECCOs in North-Western Europe and we wanted to make the existing ECCOs more efficient. The ECCO team, which comprises the project partners and beacon ECCOs, was formed.

The highlight of this first period was the partner meeting in Killarney, including the opening conference. The preparation for and organisation of this week resulted in a uniform ECCO storyline, a fitting ECCO project image and the development of the ‘ECCO wheel’, a visualisation of the ECCO acceleration network to be constructed.

We were very proud to present the ECCO vision and instruments at the #EUSEW18 in Brussels. A considerable number of project partners already communicated for the first time about local communities, farmers, entrepreneurs and policymakers, taking the specific national context into account.

In late 2018, the Local Energy Accelerator Days took place in Lochem. More than 150 participants from a variety of backgrounds attended this ECCO event: citizens, farmers, members of socio-cultural organisations, policymakers, SMEs, constructors, advisors of local, regional and national authorities, banks, existing and starting ECCOs, academics, and so on. Existing energy cooperatives were able to come there for support by experts, and to exchange experiences with other ECCOs and their tools. All wanted to become ‘smarter’ and more effective. During the workshops, master classes and excursions, all participants discovered the advantages of the ECCO model. Thanks to ECCO, we were able to access the transnational network in order to make use of experts from other North-Western European countries. Participants gained a considerable amount of knowledge about starting up and developing an ECCO. In this way, the first knowledge network was set up with the project partners and stakeholders.

In the third project period, the ECCO project was given fresh impetus thanks to REVE in Redon. More than 400 people attended. The information in the master classes and excursions, and the exchange of knowledge between stakeholders from a variety of backgrounds and nationalities is priceless!

Because of this, the ECCO acceleration network is growing faster than anticipated. The inspiration and commitment of project partners has now already led to 100 communities being inspired to start up their own ECCO, supported by one or more project partners.

The ECCO project wants to make existing ECCOs more efficient and generate more ECCOs in North Western Europe. A key part of this is also the policy context. Policymakers must be convinced of the fact that ECCOS are a valuable (f)actor in the energy transition policy. They also need to integrate it into the policy. Thanks to the adoption of the EU ‘Clean Energy package’ directive and the clear definition of ‘Citizens energy communities’ within that, there is a growing interest amongst policymakers and energy communities in ECCO. Many policymakers asked to be kept abreast of the progress of the ECCO project and would like to join the ECCO acceleration network. All project partners try to use the knowledge and experience gained to demonstrate and communicate the potential of ECCOs and energy communities for the national energy policy and the energy transition.

At the moment, however, there is a lack of consistent national policy in the majority of ECCO countries, and there is still no clear interpretation of the EU guidelines. This makes policymakers uncertain about how they should behave in the short term in relation to communities that are keen to take responsibility themselves and want to start their own sustainable energy initiative.

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