About us

Project summary

In its most recent Energy Union package, the European Union puts citizens at the core of the clean energy transitions. Beyond policy, disruptive innovations in energy sectors are challenging the traditional business model of large energy utilities. One such disruptive, social innovation is the emergence of new clean energy communities (“newcomers”). The possible benefits of these “newcomers” for their members and for society at large are still emerging and their potential to support the goals of the Energy Union is unclear.

Using a highly innovative holistic approach – drawing on cutting edge theories and methods from a broad range of social sciences coupled with strong technical knowledge and industry insight – the NEWCOMERS consortium will analyse European energy communities from various angles.

By taking an interdisciplinary approach and through employing co-creation strategies, in which research participants are actively involved in the design and implementation of the reserach, the NEWCOMERS project will deliver practical recommendations about how the European Union as well as national and local governments can support new clean energy communities to help them flourish and unfold their potential benefits for citizens and the Energy Union.

Our aim

The NEWCOMERS (New clean energy communities in a changing European energy system) project aims to explore and evaluate a variety of different new clean energy communities. Ten case study communities are voluntarily involved. They represent social innovations along dimensions like:

  • citizen engagement,
  • value creation and
  • learning.

The project will assess the regulatory, institutional and social conditions which support the emergence and operation of these energy communities as well as their potential for diffusion at national and local levels.

Our mission

To meet the challenge of decarbonisation European energy systems have to change. New clean energy communities provide much needed social innovation. They:

  • combine the benefits of community energy such as participation and democratic decision-making processes with
  • the benefits of self-sustained, revenue-generating business models.

These have the potential to be scaled up and broaden the target group of EU citizens that actively participate in the clean energy transitions.

Visualisation of the NEWCOMERS focus: new clean energy community business models

The mission of the NEWCOMERS project includes:

To conceptually distinguish between diverse forms of energy community;
To analyse their business models and their expected value creation;
To assess their benefits for members, system operators and society;
To offer relevant and credible energy-related information and knowledge to EU citizens for making informed, fact-based energy decisions;
To give practical recommendations to policy makers at all levels how to create a favourable environment for new clean energy communities.

Member countries – energy perspective

There are six partner countries involved in the NEWCOMERS project. They encompass a range of characteristics associated with the emergence and diffusion of distributed generation and energy communities:

Partners map
Different shares of renewables: For instance, the Netherlands and Sweden had renewable energy shares of 6 and 54% in 2015, respectively: they subsequently represent a laggard and a frontrunner in terms of their RES shares within Europe. The other four countries are distributed in the medium range.
Policies promoting RES: The policies promoting RES strongly differ between the six partner countries, as does the prevalence of distributed generation and energy communities.
Energy communities and energy cooperatives: Energy communities and energy cooperatives are common in Germany, the UK and Netherlands, whilst in Sweden, Italy and Slovenia they are still rather unusual. Furthermore, the degree to which energy communities are the result of citizen engagement also differs between the six partner countries. The Italian energy cooperative sector, for example, is characterized by a high share of energy communities that were initiated through companies and municipalities rather than citizens.

The NEWCOMERS project takes these differences into account in the comparative analysis of national settings. They will be compared also to the settings in other countries, such as France, Spain, Norway, Canada and the US.

Case studies (energy communities)

Our case studies are “newcomers” as they are connected to the following recent drivers in the energy markets:

  • a strong involvement of companies and municipalities (as compared to more traditional citizen-initiatives),
  • the use of innovative and smart technologies or
  • the creation of new values for their members or society.

The selected case studies represent energy communities of different:

  • size,
  • development stage,
  • level of professionalization and profit-orientation,
  • extent to which they promote wider societal goals like energy education and
  • the degree to which they are linked to local conditions and identities.