The first year of COBEN (PDF, 67kB) focussed on systemizing its strategic approach and on consolidating selected community energy consortiums that act as hosts to the project's pilot initiatives.
COBEN’s second year witnessed not only the completion of the planning phases of all regional initiatives but also three strateagic milestones: the design of a civic energy process to replace the old energy model, the specification of the benefits of civic energy and inroads into civic energy business models designed to drive the pilot projects. These were the focus of numerous regional stakeholder events. The COBEN process approach to mainstreaming civic energy was featured in this year’s European consultations run by EESC, DG Energy and CoR on shaping the EU’s future energy market.
In year three the project's consistent methodology is paying off. The process approach to promoting civic energy within a closely-knit transnational consortium has resulted in substantial progress in meeting the project's declared objectives of communicating the benefits of civic energy and enabling the pilot communities to mobilize local energy value chains in 14 NSR municipalities. Following the development work of previous periods and the ongoing cooperation within the project's expanded networks the interaction with policy makers in the new area of civic energy legislation at European, national and regional levels has intensified. The range of civic energy business models developed and tested in six NSR national frameworks has attracted growing attention; they show how civic energy works and how it can be organized.
Promotional highlights include the transnational Civic Energy Conference in September 2019, which successfully put civic energy and the role of the NSR in piloting community-driven energy transitions onto the European map. The Conference followed a well-attended Norwegian conference on smart climate solutions in June, a Parliamentary Evening in Hannover in May, COBEN workshop contributions to the North Sea Conference 2019 and the European Sustainable Energy Week 2019.
Implementation work continues in all COBEN locations: the number of pilot projects has been increased and the rewards are becoming increasingly visible, including e.g. the installation of two community solar parks in Emmen and bioenergy investments by the farming community of Østfold that have replaced 1.272.829 kWh of fossil energy by renewable energy solutions within the project period, thereby reducing CO2 emissions by 316 tons.
The project continues to combine social innovation with regional development in the critical field of energy systems. Although the EU objective of establishing a level playing field between community-led energy and centralized energy systems is still a vision for the future, the development of transferrable civic energy blueprints makes this vision attainable. COBEN is currently projecting an extension of its geographical outreach to include a large Swedish municipality and new forms of public-private partnerships to master the energy transition challenge.