Sunday, June 16, 2019
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Is the light dawning?

Energy communities want to start up in Portugal

“How can I produce energy collectively?” You can’t because the law doesn’t allow it. The legal obstacles in Portugal against autonomy and energy decentralisation came to the fore during the BEACON workshop in Setúbal. Examples of projects and energy communities brought from Greek and German cities would be illegal in Portugal. As people clamour for changes in the law, there are already initiatives that point to a more ecological and community-based future.

“Citizens must put a halt to their local network,” Ana Rita Antunes advised. She is one of the three women who form the staff of Coopérnico. This cooperative has over 1,200 members, who so far have invested in 20 small renewable energy projects. “We produce renewable systems in a decentralised way. We want to contribute to a fairer and more democratic source of energy,” she says. Coopérnico intends to become an energy supplier for the whole country. “We want our members to have only renewable energy on their bills. Today the network includes coal, fracking and nuclear power along with imported energy,” Ana explains. For this reason, the Cooperative has launched a campaign to raise 100,000 euros, the amount that is required in guarantees to EDP and REN, to be able to take the next step. “It’s a good way for people to invest other than in banks.”

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Coopérnico participates in REScoop.eu, the European Federation of Renewable Energy Cooperatives – where, among 1,500 energy cooperatives, there is, for example, the Catalan SOM Energy, created in 2010, which today has more than 55,000 members. “It allows us to learn from other cooperatives and to use energy efficiency projects that have already been tested.”

“Energy is a very closed system, which is not transparent and has a lot of lobbies,” says the head of the cooperative accusingly, for whom this is a new way of doing things, different from the big companies in the sector. “We actively want our members to reduce energy consumption. Our money comes from consumers, not from the banks. ”

Another place where people haven’t waited for politicians to plan the future is in the Alentejo village of São Luís, under the jurisdiction of Odemira Municipal Council. “Energy with joy” is the name of the innovative initiative that is uniting the group Transition São Luís, the parish council, members of the Tamera eco-village and members of Coopérnico, amongst others.

Their goal? To co-create and design the entire energy system of the village. “Which solar power system will be adopted, with what legal framework and how will it be financed? All of this project is to be designed in a collective, collaborative way,” explains Guillermo Luz of the PROSEU project for the Energy Union, which is breathing life into the process.

“The goal is to think how to do something that allows us to move forward, but which will also be adaptable in the future, in the next legal framework. It’s a living laboratory – and a pioneering initiative in Portugal.”

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