Renewable Energy Cooperatives as an instrument towards the energy transition in Spain

December, 2018

Iñigo Capellán-Pérez, MEDEAS partner from the University of Valladolid (UVa), in collaboration with Álvaro Campos-Celador and Jon Terés-Zubiaga from the University of the Basque Country, have just published a scientific article in Energy Policy, entitled: "Renewable Energy Cooperatives as an instrument towards the energy transition in Spain".

The transition to Renewable Energy Sources (RES) is an essential element towards sustainability. RES also offer a key transformative potential from a social point of view due to their modularity and capacity to generate energy at local level, allowing for the development of democratic and participative bottom-up initiatives. Thousands of RES cooperatives currently exist in Europe. However, Spanish RES cooperatives are few in number and have recently come up against a hostile regulatory and economic context, which has induced specific organizational and operating structures such as the application of innovative participation methods and investment tools. RES cooperatives regularly collaborate in sharing learning processes and experiences, having also demonstrated their capacity to spread new ideas at both social and political levels. However, despite their growth and territorial spread over the last few years, RES cooperatives still have a minor presence in the Spanish energy system. Although some internal factors may limit their potential as an active instrument towards the transition to RES in the country, the regime’s resistance is found to be the main barrier. 

The globally interconnected challenges of the sustainability crisis (e.g. climate change) and fossil fuel depletion require active policies towards a fast RES transition in all countries around the globe in the coming decades. Given that the sustainability crisis is both a technic and social challenge, the cooperative model presents clear advantages in relation to the technocratic approach based on centralized ownership and electricity generation. However, in most countries, the energy regime is reluctant to welcome the RES transition based on democratic, sustainable and decentralized production. Hence, the case of RES cooperatives in Spain can serve as inspiration to other countries where the RES cooperatives are currently not firmly established or the model does not exist at all.

The paper concludes with some recommendations for policy makers and Spanish RES cooperatives to enhance its potential role in the forthcoming energy transition process.

Medeas Partner: 
Persons involved: 
Iñigo Capellán-Pérez