Renewables

Two years on, Croatia still has no energy communities

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Photo: ZEZ

Published

July 4, 2023

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Published:

July 4, 2023

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Two years after the concept was introduced in Croatia’s regulatory framework, not a single energy community has been established in the country. Now, more than 20 associations and organizations are calling for changes to the law on the electricity market in order to enable energy cooperatives to set up citizen energy communities.

Croatia’s Green Energy Cooperative (Zelena Energetska Zadruga – ZEZ), backed by a number of other energy cooperatives, firms, legal entities and individuals, has called on the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development to make it possible for cooperatives to establish energy communities through ongoing changes to the law on the electricity market.

Between June 9 and 16, the ministry organized a public consultation on a bill on changes to the law on the electricity market, according to ZEZ’s appeal.

The law rules out cooperatives as legal entities that can establish energy communities of citizens

ZEZ has provided several comments on the bill, including on the definition of a citizen energy community as a legal entity that is regulated by the law that governs the financial operations and accounting of non-profit organizations.

This definition, among others, does not recognize cooperatives as legal entities that can establish a citizen energy community, which is contrary to the European Union’s (EU) Directive 2019/944 on common rules for the internal electricity market.

The ministry rejected ZEZ’s proposal, but the cooperative considers the explanation unacceptable given that Croatia does not have a single registered energy community two years after the introduction of the concept into the legal framework. This, according to ZEZ, is due to too many administrative barriers.

The ministry claims that energy cooperatives do not meet the requirements to set up energy communities

The ministry stated that energy cooperative does not meet the requirements for setting up an energy community, mainly because their members are individuals, and they cannot include local communities and other actors.

The purpose of an energy community is to achieve wider social benefits, the ministry added.

ZEZ and other organizations believe that the ministry’s explanation has no grounds in Croatian law or the relevant EU Directive.

No other EU member state has prevented cooperatives from establishing citizens’ energy communities. In Slovenia, energy communities are even “reserved” exclusively for cooperatives, according to the appeal.

Energy cooperatives are pioneers of citizen energy

ZEZ stressed that energy cooperatives are the originators of citizen energy – renewable energy owned by citizens and local communities – in Europe.

The first energy cooperatives, such as Belgium’s Ecopower and Spain’s Som Energia, provided examples of business in the energy sector that can bring transform the local communities in which they operate to the benefit of their members, according to ZEZ. “The energy cooperative is a successful practice that is several decades old, and which started in countries such as Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Spain,” according to the appeal.

Apart from ZEZ, organizations and association that support the initiative to enable energy cooperative to establish energy communities include: civil society organization ACT Grupa, design studio Armano Linta, energy cooperatives Otok Krk, Apsyrtides, Drenova, Dalmacija and KLIK, the European Cooperative Society (MOBA Housing SCE), the City of Cres, Greenpeace Croatia, the Island Development Agency (OTRA), the Island Movement, and agricultural cooperative Otok Krk.

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