Innovative renewable energy cooperatives are leading the energy transition to energy democracy
A renewable energy cooperative, or REScoop, is a business model in which citizens jointly own and participate in renewable energy or energy efficiency projects. REScoops are also known as community power or community energy initiatives. The European federation of renewable energy cooperatives is REScoop.eu. It’s a growing network of 1,250 European energy cooperatives and one million citizens who are active in the energy transition.
REScoops generate sustainable energy from local sources thanks to the participation of local citizens. For example, a citizen can become a co-owner of a nearby wind turbine, hydropower installation or solar panels, and no longer needs to depend on a big utility company or worry about rising energy prices.
REScoops typically respect seven principles that have been duly outlined by the International Cooperative Alliance:
Voluntary and Open Membership
Democratic Member Control
Economic Participation through Direct Ownership
Autonomy and Independence
Education, Training and Information
Cooperation among Cooperatives
Concern for Community
Citizens can also actively participate in the cooperative, helping to decide in what and where the REScoop can invest, and in setting the energy price.
To expand the European REScoop movement, REScoop.eu has produced a number of tools that provide conceptual frameworks to help start a community power initiative. They include European best practices, and advice on the optimum business model. REScoop.eu also helps starters find out how to engage and manage stakeholders, and how to finance renewable energy projects.
RESCoop has produced this short video on renewable energy cooperatives:
In 2012, OPEL ESPAÑA, supported by Creara Energy Experts, implemented the energy management system ISO 50001 , which had a positive impact on the productivity and management of OPEL ESPAÑA’s facilities.
Company: OPEL ESPAÑA S.L.U
Site: Figueruelas Plant
Location: Figueruelas, Zaragoza
Annual decrease of 4-6% in energy consumption since 2012
21% decrease in CO2 emissions since 2012
Related energy cost savings
What makes this site special?
OPEL ESPAÑA’s Zaragoza production center is a large industrial facility dedicated to the manufacturing of vehicles and vehicle parts, as well as to maintenance and logistics activities. Almost 5,000 employees work in the plant.
The site is OPEL’s largest vehicle manufacturing plant in the world, with an annual output of over 382,400 cars (2017). The plant has an energy demand of over 510 GWh a year (2017), most of which comes from the use of natural gas for cogeneration (40.95%) and for the use of boilers, furnaces and direct combustion in painting booths (24.05%). The remaining energy consumption comes from grid-electricity (35%).
Energy management is one of OPEL ESPAÑA’s main priorities, reflected by the fact that they were one of the first companies in Spain to implement ISO 50001
As part of its environmental and energy policy, OPEL ESPAÑA implemented ISO 50001 in 2012. This has contributed to improve the company’s competitiveness and reduce its environmental impact. The main motivations for Opel to implement this standard were the following:
Optimize and integrate ISO 50001 in the existing EMAS II and ISO 14001 management systems (Energy management processes were already in place through ISO 14001. However, the implementation of ISO 50001 enabled OPEL España to reinforce its focus on energy management and its homogenization as the norm has been designed specifically for that purpose)
Improve the methodology to establish Key Performance Indicators
Establish more aggressive consumption saving objectives
Intensify the level of monitoring and implementation of corrective plans
Increase awareness of good behavioural practices in environmental and energy conservation
As a result of the process, kick-started through the adoption of the standard, an energy efficiency program that included the following measures was defined:
Installation of high-level air compressors with high variable capacity
Change from pneumatic to electric pumps
Installation of a more efficient lighting system
Aggressive plan to decrease consumption in non-productive periods
Heat recovery in furnaces and repair booths and in cogeneration processes
Monthly energy audits
Creation of energy committees through which OPEL ESPAÑA trains and encourages its employees to maintain and improve energy efficiency in the plant (The committees were formed with the aim of involving employees in the development of the plant’s energy policy)
The total budget for these measures exceeded 4 million euros, 75% of which was spent in the first 4 years following the implementation of the norm. The estimated payback period for the energy efficiency program as a whole is around 3 years.
“The implementation of the norm has allowed us to consolidate and improve our previous energy management system, speeding up the identification and implementation of energy saving measures. As a result, we have produced immediate monetary savings and fulfilled the demanding goals of our environmental protection policy.”
Ramiro Martínez, Water and Energy Manager
Since the implementation of ISO 50001 in 2012, CO2 emissions have been reduced by 21% and energy consumption has decreased between 4-6% annually
Thanks to the implementation of ISO 50001 in 2012, OPEL ESPAÑA has achieved important savings and benefits in its Figueruelas Plant, evidencing the positive effects of the implementation of energy efficiency measures:
CO2 emissions have been reduced by 21%, or 20,000 ton/year
Annual savings of 4-6% in energy consumption
Annual natural gas savings of up to 15% during manufacturing periods, and nearly 20% in periods without production (compared to previous non-productive periods)
Improved and more precise consumption information
Greater awareness and environmental responsibility by employees through their involvement in the above-mentioned committees
All these savings have translated to significant monetary savings for the plant.
The success attained by a globally renowned brand such as Opel ESPAÑA in its implementation of an energy management system compliant with ISO 50001 is a clear example of the complementarity between monetary incentives and environmental consciousness and commitment.
“Combining heat and power is essential for the future energy system.”
COGEN Europe, the European association for the promotion of cogeneration, recently unveiled its new vision that positions cogeneration as the backbone of Europe’s energy system by bringing together electricity, heat and gas networks, and integrating and using renewables efficiently.
“COGEN Europe’s vision addresses the needs of the changing energy system in Europe, which is becoming increasingly low carbon, competitive, smart and local,” explains COGEN Europe Managing Director Hans Korteweg. “We envisage a resilient, decentralised, carbon neutral European energy system by 2050 with cogeneration as its backbone.”
This will result in a variety of benefits such as reduced energy consumption and the associated emission reductions, lower energy bills for citizens, and boosted industrial competitiveness. At the same time, cogeneration will lead to the increased integration of renewable energy, such as variable wind and solar power, as well as dispatchable sources like biomass, biogas and hydrogen, maximising their efficient use and value in the economy.
Moreover, COGEN Europe believes that by as early as 2030, cogeneration could provide 20% of Europe’s electricity requirements and 25% of its heat needs, contributing up to 23% of the EU’s CO2 reduction target and 18% of its energy efficiency target. 90 million European households already receive their energy supply from district heating using cogeneration, and 100,000 SMEs use cogeneration today.
“By 2050, we would like to see a doubling of cogeneration capacity in the EU energy mix by ensuring that cogeneration is prioritised for all thermally generated electricity and heat,” adds Korteweg.
During its May progress meeting, the DecarbEurope partners discussed the following values for the initiative:
Decarbonization: we pursue solutions that provide a sizeable contribution and that are scalable to provide rapid and deep carbon savings. For this, we need policy stability, a long-term perspective and strict planning to achieve energy & climate objectives by 2050.
Cost-effectiveness: we want solutions that are cost-effective, that compete in the market on merit. Minimum life-cycle costing should guide policy design. All cost-effective measures need to be pursued.
Circularity: in the transition from a fossil fuel-based to a more capital-intensive energy system, we want products and systems to be durable, easy to repair and highly recyclable.
Sector coupling: we believe in integrated energy systems and the use of digital solutions. We need a system approach combining renewables and energy efficiency with energy flexibility.
Consumer engagement: we believe in full access to energy markets, green power purchase agreements (PPAs), guarantees of origin, long-term agreements and peer-to-peer energy transactions.