Commentary On Community Power In Greece Through The Lens Of Co-operatives
The Community Power Report
July 15, 2012
Co-operatives represent an important model for community development. By placing the needs of citizens first through shared ownership of resources, say solar energy for example, co-operatives can represent a formidable bargaining agent in society with the capacity to contest state power not unlike interest and lobby groups. In Greece, given the economic woes precipitating the EU and IMF bailout, renewable energy co-operatives can represent an important means of promoting growth and social cohesion.
According to Nasioulas (2012, p. 160), “[T]he cooperative movement in Greece has suffered a temporal disorientation, fragmentation, and has consistently been underactive.” A once rich field of non-profit activity, Greek co-operatives have suffered, as stated by Nasioulas (2012, p. 151) from “political patronage and structural deficiencies.” Currently in Greece, a considerable investment in renewables has come from foreign investors. Enel Green Power, Italy’s biggest renewable energy company, has begun production of four new solar plants (Reuters June 19 2012 Stephen Jewkes). Such investments result in minimal local economic growth, given that energy production is being supplied domestically by foreign investors. A National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) study found that the impact of community-owned wind projects on job creation during construction period is 1.1 to 1.3 times higher than corporate ones, and 1.1 to 2.8 times higher during the operational period (Lantz and Tegen, 2009, p. 17). Thus, Greek citizens have an important opportunity to make a difference to the economic, social, and political woes that plague the nation through the establishment of renewable energy co-operatives. Not only will such projects help to meet community energy needs in a sustainable manner but they also represent an important investment opportunity in terms of generating revenue.
Lessons from elsewhere in Europe can play an important role in facilitating the establishment of renewable energy cooperatives in Greece. Denmark and Germany are particularly instructive in this regard. Communities there have successfully set up renewable energy projects consisting primarily of solar and wind co-operatives that are built using locally sourced equipment, which help meet local energy needs and also create revenue by selling surplus energy (RuniPlanet, 2009). Also noteworthy is the fact that 50 per cent of renewable energy generation in Germany is community-owned (Bilek, 2012). As a global leader in renewable energy, the fact that such a high proportion of projects are community-owned speaks to the economic appeal and inherent democracy of co-operartives.
Public policy is an important catalyst in supporting the growth of renewable energy at the national level. However, public policy incentives pertaining to renewable energy in Greece, such as a reduction of administrative burdens (European Commission, 2007) have not gone far enough. This is to be expected given the economic conditions and the dismal state of the public coffers. However, co-operatives tend to be very successful during economic downturn (Birchall and Ketilson, 2009). Therefore, in spite of the Greek economic crisis, a true shift can take place at the grass roots level through the development of community power, which can increase the country’s renewable energy share as part of the greater electricity mix. The cases of Denmark and Germany, as touched upon in this article, demonstrate well the success of renewable energy co-operatives in sustaining local economies and supporting social cohesion.
The Community Power Report
Bilek, A. (2012). Revitalizing Rural Communities through the Renewable Energy Cooperative. Series on the German Energy Transition (3 of 6). Washington: Heinrich Boll Siftung. Retrived from http://www.boell.org/downloads/Bilek_EnergyCooperatives.pdf
Birchall, J. and Ketilson, L. H. (2009). Resilience of the Cooperative Business Model in Times of Crisis. Sustainable Enterprise Programme: International Labour Organization. Retrieved from http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—ed_emp/—emp_ent/documents/publication/wcms_108416.pdf
European Commission (2007). Greece Renewable Energy Fact Sheet. European Commission: Energy. Retrieved from http://ec.europa.eu/energy/energy_policy/doc/factsheets/renewables/renewables_el_en.pdf
Jewkes, S. (2012, June 19). Update 1-Enel GP Says 4 New Greek Solar Plants Now Producing. Reuters. Retrieved from: http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/06/19/enelgp-greece-idINL5E8HJ8KR20120619
Lantz, E. and Tegen, S. (2009). Economic Development Impacts of Community Wind Projects: A Review and Empirical Evaluation (Conference Paper No. NREL/CP-500-45555). National Renewable Energy Laboratory: U.S. Department of Energy. Retrieved from http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy09osti/45555.pdf
Nasioulas, I. (2012). Social Cooperatives in Greece: Introducing New Forms of Social Economy and Entrepreneurship. International Review of Social Research. 2(2): pp. 151-171.
RuniPlanet (2009, July 14). Nature Inc. – Now and Forever: BBC Environmental Documentary [Video File]. BBC World News. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZHImTBBGILo