On 24 February we held our first conference titled Energy Communities for the Common Good! A diverse group of people listened to the presentations and round table discussions in the small hall of the Kazan Community Centre, and during the breaks, there was an opportunity for networking and lively professional discussion among all those interested in the topic.
Ágnes Gagyi and Márton Fabók opened the conference with the presentation of the Solidarity Economy Centre. In their introduction, they outlined the concept of the solidarity economy in general and in relation to energy issues.
This was followed by a round table discussion on Collective Opportunities in the Energy Price Crisis, moderated by Nóra Feldmár from Habitat for Humanity, Ágnes Szalkai from Energy Efficient Wekerle, Bence Kovács from Friends of the Earth Hungary and Fanni Farkas from the Hungarian Energy Efficiency Institute (MEHI), moderated by Fruzsina Előd (Telex). In this section, we learned that the concept of community energy has long been dealt with by organizations in Hungary, and although the legal concept of energy communities is rather limited in Hungary, there are still community initiatives. In Hungary, the energy rating of residential buildings is on average FF, which shows that there is a lot of potential for refurbishment. One of the participating organizations, Energy Efficient Wekerle, is trying to exploit this potential by helping to promote energy efficiency investments across the country and providing loanable thermal imaging cameras. For example, a loanable thermal imaging camera to support energy efficiency investments across the country. The subsidy system of energy efficiency renovations in Hungarian is not well thought-out at the moment and a serious willingness to invest and a complex concept from the side of the state would be needed to bring about a forward-looking solution.
In the second section, Ada Ámon from the Municipality of Budapest, Heni Horváth from the Municipality of Józsefváros, Gabriella Zagyva from the Municipality of Alsómocsolád and Zsófia Pej from Energiaklub discussed the relationship between energy communities and local governments, moderated by Levente Polyák. Participants in the discussion confirmed that municipalities of different scales face different challenges and have different roles to play in community organization, energy efficiency and promoting the green transition.
The third roundtable discussion was on the topic of the Kazan energy community and cooperatives, with Csaba Baroch, a member of the Gólya cooperative, and Viktor Kiss and Csaba Jelinek, members of the Alliance for Collaborative Real Estate Development, moderated by Ákos Nagy (SEC Energy Working Group). The discussion gave the audience an insight into the Kazan Community House’s response to the energy crisis and the functioning of community decision-making and management. We also learnt that what makes an energy community a community is not its legal form, but solidarity and communal sharing of burdens and benefits.
In the Kazan, the Energy Action Team, which was at first set up to get the solar panels installed on the roof of the building, has been transformed during the energy crisis as a kind of building-level forum to discuss energy issues. As a result of the team’s activities, energy awareness has increased, reforms have been implemented in the building, and a 50 percent heating energy saving was achieved in the 2022-23 winter season compared to the previous winter. Since it uses such community solutions, Kazan is already essentially an energy community, and the team aims to further develop the model: the energy community 2.0 would be created by bringing the solar panels into operation, and the planned model would channel savings from the use of renewable energy into creating more and more energy efficiency solutions over time.
The conference was closed with a presentation by Márton Fabók and Ákos Nagy, who outlined the objectives and operational plan of the Transformator Development Centre. Transformator envisages energy communities embedded in a solidarity economy, where energy production and consumption are managed by the users and the focus is on meeting social needs rather than accumulating profit. To promote energy communities based on these principles, Transformer is working in 4 areas: 1. capacity building; 2. network building; 3. advocacy; 4. communication.
We would also like to thank the speakers and the audience for their active participation and a productive conference day!