Story by Sandra Vlašić, Terra Hub
June 29th, 2018
A big white ferry that carries the name of Petar Hektorović, Croatian renaissance poet, islander and a huge fan of nature, sailed into Vis harbour on May 1st, the International Worker’s Day. And brought-in good energy to the island. Good energy came with a group of more than 80 Croatian and European experts, researchers, practitioners, policy-makers, social entrepreneurs, innovators, activists, students and enthusiasts who are dealing with citizens’’ energy, with development of energy-sustainable communities and with energy poverty. They each deal with the issues from his or her different role and perspective but what they all have in common is a determination to bring-in a positive change to the society and benefits for local communities. They all do believe in energy communities lead by values not by profit, those having people in the centre, those using locally available resources and providing opportunities to citizens to participate and make decisions on local energy they use. This is called energy transition and that is their mission.
Dirk Vansitijan, president of the European Federation of Energy Cooperatives (REScoop.eu) and founder of the biggest Belgian energy cooperative Eco Power with more than 50,000 members would put it in these couple of sentences: „Good energy is renewable energy because it does not deplete the Earth’s resources and it does not pollute nor affects negatively future generations. It is the energy available to everybody as a basic right, not as a luxury commodity for the rich. “ And Mark Graham from Robin Hood Energy, non-profit organisation founded by the city of Nottingham would add : „Good energy helps fighting energy poverty. It puts people in the centre of the greener energy future.”
Discussions, cooperation, learning from experience of the others, synergy
During three and a half days in the Croatian House hall in Vis, more than 30 lectures and panel discussions took place. There was a vibrant exchange of experiences on various models of participation of citizens and of local communities in the ownership of renewable energy installations, on development and support of energy cooperatives in Croatia and Western Balkan region, on development of energy-independent local communities like cities, islands or rural areas, on the management models that treat energy as a public good and on various models of fighting energy poverty.
But the most useful part was talking about and demonstrating concrete work done – about dozen examples from practice in cities, municipalities and energy cooperatives were presented: from the island of Krk, from Velika Gorica, Križevci, Pazin, Pleternica, Zadar, Primošten Burni cooperative; from Scottish Edinburgh, from Belgium, France, Germany. Finally, some useful exchanges happened as well during the evening gatherings at local Vis taverns or just while strolling along the coast with dense scent of lemon trees bloom.
From the European Federation of Energy Cooperatives to the Energy Cities Association, the UN and IRENA
Besides already mentioned representatives of the RESCoop and Robin Hood Energy, on Vis there was David Donerer from the European cities association Energy Cities that gathers more than 1000 EU cities and assists local governments in energy transition; there was Paul Phare, expert and practitioner from the UK energy cooperative Energy4all and who assisted the one in Lancashire that collected more than 3 million pounds for the wind-energy aggregate. There was also Barbara Kalker from German Caritas who presented their programme of energy advisors who help families in energy poverty at more than 150 German cities; Ignacio Navarro – energy expert from Greenpeace Greece. There were representatives from the EU Parliament members, from the United Nations Development Programme and from the International Renewable Energy Agency IRENA, and many Croatian and regional experts, representatives of cities, associations, companies and cooperatives. Detailed day-by-day programme and list of panellists is available here.
„Do not protest, demonstrate! “
It is difficult to extract the best moments in discussions. What should be highlighted is an opportunity coming from newly-established EU-Secretariat for the Islands, which will support the islanders in projects preparation as well as their vision of energy independence. We should learn from each other, there are many good examples and good practice, we should connect and use international networks of knowledge, islands, cities, cooperatives. We should overcome fear and resistance from changes that come from lack of knowledge, we should act together and in synergy with the others sharing the same goal – to secure good energy now, that is from clean resources, available for all by price and by access. We should use innovative technologies like blockchain and smart grids like the Power Ledger from Australia does, or the alternative financing like crowdfunding.
What is missing is broader public awareness people willing to change. That is why it’s important to work on pilot-projects and demonstrate how things can be done differently and better. People do believe what they see, just like Dirk Vansitijan said – if you want to change something, you must demonstrate, not to protest.
Here you can find all the Conclusions and Recommendations of Good Energy Summit on Vis. You can plug-in to good energy too!
The main organiser of the Summit is Green Energy Cooperative. Partners and supporters are representing numerous domestic and international organizations such as Association of Cities in Croatia, Energy Cities, REScoop.eu, the Institute for Political Ecology, Faculty of Geotechnical Engineering, Greenpeace and Renewable Energy Sources Croatia (GIU OIE). The event is organized within the project “Good energy in Social Entrepreneurship” implemented by Green Energy Cooperative in collaboration with Craft College and funded by the European Social Fund.