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Consumer Stock Ownership Plans (CSOPs) – Financing Energy Communities

The transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy (RE) sources (RES) requires motivating consumers to change their consumption habits so as to balance demand with a volatile energy supply and to accept new technologies like smart meters. Consumer co-ownership in RE – “Citizen Energy” – has proved successful in engaging consumers in financing RES, thus becoming “prosumers”, which in turn induced positive behavioural changes in energy consumption. “Prosumer” models, however, are still not widely implemented across Europe. The aim of SCORE project (Supporting Consumer Co-Ownership in Renewable Energies) was to facilitate (co-) ownership in RE for consumers first in three pilot regions in Italy, Czech Republic and Germany – and later in various other follower cities across Europe. SCORE particularly highlights the potential of this democratic participation model for the inclusion of women and low-income households.

CSD carried out a comprehensive study mapping different policy options for promoting prosumership and RES communities based on а comparative evaluation of the legal conditions and incentives in the three pilots and the experience of our work with the Follower Cities. Based on this evaluation, CSD developed in-depth specific recommendations targeted at national policymakers on developing new legal and financial frameworks, including specific measures to ensure that all consumers, including those in low-income or vulnerable households or in social housing could participate in renewable energy communities, as well as a general guidance on how to jumpstart  investments in small-scale RE plants, including a suggestion for a new support scheme in follower municipalities to be followed up by a nation-wide program. CSD also organized the CSOP-financing transfer workshop entitled “Innovative Financial Schemes for Supporting Citizen-Driven Decentralised RES Projects in Europe”, where a Catalogue of prerequisites for a transfer of prosumer CSOP-financing was presented among interested municipalities and the relevant stakeholders.

CSD presented the CSOP model and advocated for its implementation at several events in Bulgaria and Europe, organized by various stakeholders or initiated by CSD. Particular emphasis was put on the possibilities for inclusion of vulnerable groups. In Bulgaria, CSD reached two groups of stakeholders. The first group included state authorities, managing public funded programs in the field of energy transition in Bulgaria. Among them were the state-owned Bulgarian Development Bank, the Council of Ministers' unit responsible for the preparation and coordination of all Operational Programs in the country, the fund manager of financial instruments in Bulgaria, etc. The second group included representatives of local governments (municipalities) that have been interested in the application of new financial models for co-ownership of RES and particularly – in models, assisting the involvement of energy poor consumers. Due to the lack of a legal and institutional framework for energy communities in Bulgaria and existing administrative barriers, there is still not a single energy community project in the country but several municipalities have explored the possibilities for first pilot projects in this direction. The most advanced one is the city of Burgas with which CSD has partnered on carrying out a technical and economic feasibility study for the construction of municipality-owned RES project. CSD has managed to reach in total more than 300 stakeholders and among them – about 60 policy makers and 50 representatives of municipalities, promoting possibilities for co-investments and respectively, co-ownership by citizens and local SMEs.

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