Originally published on The Community Power Report.
by Mümtaz Derya Tarhan
Representatives from public and private sectors, civil society and the academia on a global scale gathered in Istanbul between 27-29 June 2013 for the 3rd International 100% Renewable Energy Conference (IRENEC). The main focus of the conference was identifying barriers and drawing an action plan to fuel the transition to 100% renewable energy on a local, regional, national, and finally global scale.
While the conference hosted individuals from very diverse backgrounds everyone seemed to agree that this transition couldn’t be achieved unless it became a social movement; and also that a critical factor to ignite a far-reaching social movement in the energy sector was to change how people perceive energy generation and consumption.
Community ownership of renewable energy received wide global recognition for encouraging a shift in public perception by transforming energy consumers into ‘prosumers’ (producer/consumers). Participating in a community-owned renewable energy project, ‘prosumers’ get a direct economic stake in both the generation and consumption of energy; become part of a culture of co-operation; and become more aware of the environmental impacts of their energy generation and consumption choices.
Under the influence of this global shift to community-owned energy generation, a panel on ‘Collective Ownership in Energy Generation and the Energy Co-operatives Movement’ was organized as part of IRENEC 2013 to further discuss this topic in Turkey; a country of vast human and renewable energy potential. The main goal was to introduce concepts and best practices from around the world, and also to identify potential ownership models that may be implemented in Turkey.
Co-chairs of this panel were Dr. Baha Kuban, an experienced professional in the renewable energy sector who is currently developing climate action plans for local governments in Turkey; and Mümtaz Derya Tarhan, Founder and Director of The Community Power Report, a website covering project and policy updates regarding community-based renewable energy generation and conservation from across the world. Also invited to the panel was Preben Meagaard, also recognized as the ‘father of community power’ across the world, a renewable energy expert from Denmark.
First, it was Dr. Baha Kuban who took the stage to point out the economic success and sustainability of co-operatives across the world, especially in rough economic times. Beyond their economic impact, he also underlined how the democratic and participatory nature of co-operatives ignites social and behavioural change. Finally, he pointed at how renewable energy co-operatives may proliferate in Turkey -especially with the participation of local governments, existing agricultural co-operatives and building complexes, if supported by effective policy and support mechanisms.
Then it was Preben Meagaard who started talking about the impressive success story of renewable energy co-operatives in Denmark. Meagaard told the audience about how the ground for the proliferation of this movement was made ready by the social demand for clean energy over 30 years ago. Since then, renewable energy co-operatives have been the locomotive of the country’s renewable energy sector: Today, over 100 wind co-operatives in Denmark have a combined ownership of 3/4 of the country’s turbines. And 150,000 families are members of these wind energy co-operatives, owning over 3,000 turbines, which provide 23% of Denmark’s overall energy.
Meagaard identified the other main factor in the proliferation of renewable energy co-operatives in Denmark as supportive policy on behalf of the government. Some examples he provided were the feed-in tariff program, privileges provided to co-operatives in energy policy, and the requirement that every wind project established in the country had to offer some of its ownership to the local community. Furthermore, he pointed out that the shared ownership of co-operatives enabled many citizens to participate in these projects with low investments, and increased their public acceptance.
For the final presentation, Mümtaz Derya Tarhan highlighted some of the economic, social and environmental benefits of collective ownership models with academic studies and real life examples. Furthermore, Tarhan underlined that renewable energy co-operatives also encourage a culture of co-operation and democracy, and enable regular citizens to take their energy future into their own hands. Finally, he showcased how renewable energy co-operatives are resilient and adaptable enough to succeed in urban and rural settings; large, medium and small scale; and in higher and low income communities through various best case practices from across the world.
After these presentations, the panel turned into an open discussion with the participation of the audience. Main topics of this discussion were ways that renewable energy co-operatives can be set up in Turkey; barriers that may restrict this process; and how different actors such as local governments, existing co-operatives, building complexes and educational institutions can come together to take part in the development of community-owned renewable energy projects.
Follow-up work to the panel will be the establishment of an information-sharing platform on community energy in Turkey to build up awareness and participation for a larger panel or conference to be organized in 2014.
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