The Problem: Barriers to community renewables projects

In the past, renewable energy sources (RES) have enjoyed healthy growth throughout a number of countries in the European Union (EU). However, a several factors have contributed towards a halt in the growth of RES.

First, the financial crisis, and concerns over market distortions have placed constraints on public spending for RES support schemes, which have been necessary to allow RES to gain a foothold in the European energy market. Other existing challenges include integration of RES into the EU’s electricity system, which will require large investments in transmission and distribution grids, including through cross-border infrastructure.

Furthermore, incoherent planning regulations have led to the construction of a high number large installations by big or State-owned RES developers (in the wind sector this has been come to be known as the ‘wind rush’), which have tended to benefit only a few at the expense of the community-at-large. This has led to increasing public opposition to RES projects.

For community projects in particular, financial incentives to produce renewable energy are being pulled back. Furthermore, it is not always easy to access adequate sources of finance to fund such projects. Citizen groups and co-operatives also increasingly face hard-to-navigate and overly bureaucratic permitting procedures. Moreover, due to a lack of understanding of community RES and the benefits it provides, the backlash in public opinion towards RES in general has also affected community projects.

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José Reynaldo da Fonseca

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