There are 3000+ energy co-ops in the US and Europe. In both parts of the world co-ops are addressing the renewable energy challenge. In the US, some energy co-ops known as electric co-ops, are working toward 100% renewable energy use and analyzing the realities of getting there. Energy co-ops exist across Western Europe using exclusively renewable energy.
In the US, more than 900 consumer-owned electric co-ops are represented by The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) in Arlington, VA. US electric cooperatives are in 47 states.
According to NRECA, US electric cooperatives are governed by consumer-members and are not-for-profit businesses. Consumer-members vote for board members, “and the co-op must, with few exceptions, return to consumer-members revenue above what is needed for operation. Under this structure, electric co-ops provide economic benefits to their local communities rather than distant stockholders.”
The NRECA publication, Rural Energy (RE) Magazine, reported in the article “Co-ops Considering a 100% Renewable Energy Portfolio,” that two energy co-ops in Vermont and Texas are confronting the challenges of reaching 100% renewable energy use. The Pedernales Electric Cooperative in Austin is facing the lack of suitable sites for solar arrays that are near the areas of demand. A major challenge for the Vermont Electric Cooperative is the capital needed, $15 billion, for a solar and battery system.
In Western Europe, co-ops are an opportunity for consumers to control their use of renewable energy. They are called REScoops. Their website REScoop.eu says “REScoop is short for renewable energy cooperative, and refers to a business model where citizens jointly own and participate in renewable energy or energy efficient projects.”
According to REScoop.eu there are at least 2,397 European REScoops, mostly in Western Europe. This federation of co-ops “supports the energy transition to a decentralised, renewable, efficient and sustainable energy system with citizens at its core. We refer to it as the energy transition to energy democracy. We believe that REScoops are the most appropriate business model to keep this transition fair and affordable for citizens.”
REScoop.eu describes REScoops as small and large. Ecopower in Belgium, for example, has “almost 50,000 members, and owns 17 wind turbines, 3 hydro power installations, 320 solar panels and 1 cogeneration installation using rape seed oil.”
The move toward 100% renewable worldwide energy use is possible according to the study, Energy [R]evolution report, published by Greenpeace last year. It offers a vision of 100% renewable energy use worldwide by 2050. Co-ops, with the democratic influence of consumer-members are one path to get there.