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Empowering Vulnerable Consumers to Join Renewable Energy Communities—Towards an Inclusive Design of the Clean Energy Package

Written by Jens Lowitzsch.
The article was published in Energies 2020, 13.

Abstract

The unequal distribution of costs and benefits of the energy transition is a challenge for energy justice and energy policy. Although the empowerment of consumers to participate in renewable energy communities (RECs) has great potential for a just energy transition, vulnerable consumers remain underrepresented in RE projects. The recast of the European renewable energy directive obliges the European Member States to facilitate the participation of vulnerable consumers and support their inclusion in its “enabling framework” for prosumership. However, the type and specific design of corresponding measures remains unclear. Against this background this article investigates consumer empowerment in a vulnerability context. In particular we stress the need to understand how vulnerability affects participation in RECs to inform both policy makers and practitioners on its specificities and restrictions for the “enabling framework”. To prevent the inclusion of vulnerable consumers in RECs from remaining an idea on paper lawmakers need to be made aware of the implications for a consistent “enabling framework”. We argue that both individual vulnerable consumers as well as RECs need incentives and support to boost RECs’ capacity to include groups that until now remain underrepresented.