In Belgium, POWER UP will implement a pilot scheme in the city of Eeklo, a forerunner in local renewable energy production.
This pilot will implement a novel business model around renewable energy and energy efficiency services together with households affected by energy poverty and with local stakeholders (municipalities, social organisations, energy utilities, citizen cooperatives etc.).
The city of Eeklo will focus on a financial scheme for vulnerable and indebted households based on revenues of an existing wind turbine owned by Eeklo and the Belgium citizen cooperative Ecopower to enhance access to local green energy at a fair price. In this way, the barriers for households to become a member of an energy community and access local green energy are removed and debts can be limited. In addition, accompanying measures for households (communication campaigns, dedicated workshops, etc.) will be put in place to support them in reducing their energy consumption. In this way vulnerable households are activated to participate directly in the local energy transition so that they can immediately enjoy the benefits.
In Eeklo 4% of the total households are abandoned by their supplier because of payment issues and are supplied by the distribution systems operator (DSO), which acts as an emergency social supplier. Worse, they even pay a higher price for electricity than normal. Another striking figure is that 24.1% of the children in Eeklo grow up in a vulnerable situation.
The energy cooperative Ecopower is a key partner of the city of Eeklo since years. In POWER UP the two organizations will develop a financial and organizational scheme so that vulnerable (and indebted) households, can benefit from existing wind turbines in the city. In Belgium, indebted households are forced by law to be supplied by the DSO at a higher-than-average market rate. This price is substantially higher than the energy at cost price offered by the cooperative supplier to its members. The two organisations aim to set up a financial fund to pre-finance the access to community energy and manage the debts of indebted households. That way they will be allowed to change energy supplier and to benefit from cheaper and greener local energy. Lastly, the financial benefits will allow them to reimburse their debts.
Ecopower cv is a citizen and renewable energy community since 1991. Our objective is to harvest part of the environmental energy together for our own sustainable use. Ecopower has more than 60.000 cooperative members in the Flemish region, 70% of the members has only one share of 250€. Ecopower gathers financial resources from as many cooperative members (shareholders) as possible and uses these funds to invest in renewable energy projects. Together we own 20 windturbines, small hydroplants, lots of PV-installations, district heating network, wood pellet factory.
Each pilot organisation has found a ‘sparring partner’ organisation in its region which expressed its intention to replicate the pilot scheme.