Press release: Federal government wants significant citizen participation in offshore wind energy – SeaCoop is making it happen
This decision makes Belgium the offshore leader in Europe in implementing the European directives on renewable energy communities.
SeaCoop and all the cooperatives affiliated with the REScoop federations applaud this decision and underline the Belgian federal government’s innovative vision.
This is the first time in Europe, if not the world, that a government is encouraging citizen participation in large offshore wind farms through renewable energy communities.
The SeaCoop model contributes to the active participation of citizens in the energy transition, and ensures price stability and local sustainable anchoring
The cooperatives affiliated with the Belgian REScoop federations have been working for energy via the short supply chain for more than 10 years. These cooperatives allow citizens to be both owners and users of their energy. This model guarantees that the energy produced is sold at a fair price, without excess profits. In 2022 alone, when energy prices rose so high, more than 100,000 citizens who were members of these renewable energy communities were able to save hundreds of euros on their annual electricity bill.
Membership in a citizen energy cooperative makes it possible for all to get to work taking back control of their energy. Studies show that this leads to citizens taking greater ownership of the energy transition*.
Thirty-four of these local cooperatives – active in Flanders, Brussels and Wallonia – have joined forces and established the cooperative social enterprise SeaCoop cvso, the single point of contact for other stakeholders in the field of offshore wind energy. Through SeaCoop, local cooperatives will enable citizens to co-invest in offshore wind turbines and gain direct access to the energy produced there. As with onshore citizen energy, the fact that offshore wind turbines are owned by citizens will ensure price stability and sustainable local anchoring of renewable electricity production. Their ambition is to invest 445 million euros in future North Sea wind farms.
SeaCoop aims to take 20% ownership of the wind farms and supply 20% of the electricity to citizens
SeaCoop will participate in the tender and establish partnerships with industrial and financial players active in the field of offshore wind energy. Contacts are currently being made and forms of cooperation are being developed.
SeaCoop, together with cooperative electricity suppliers Ecopower and Cociter, is preparing the practical arrangements for acquiring this electricity and then supplying it to the cooperatives. Securing supply contracts and managing such volumes of electricity is the challenge.
In 2027, a national communication campaign will invite citizens to join one of the 34 local cooperatives to participate in this extensive initiative.
Terms and conditions of the tender announced
The awarding of concessions for future wind farms in the Princess Elisabeth Zone will be done through a tendering procedure organised by the federal government. On 21 April, Minister of Energy, Tinne Van der Straeten announced the conditions of this call for tenders, which will be laid down in a Royal Decree.
The tender encourages citizen participation and the supply of energy at a fair price
The tender criteria will allocate points to citizen participation. This decision makes it possible to supply citizens with offshore wind energy at a fair price.
In this, the government refers to the concept “sustainable energy community”. This provides for administrative autonomy and ownership of the means of production, and prioritises the wider impact above maximising financial profit.
* See the study “Added value of direct citizen participation in offshore wind farms vs mere financial participation” https://www.rescoopv.be/sites/default/files/rapport-pv-102022.pdf (original French text) – https://www.rescoopv.be/sites/default/files/Actueel/221124%20-%20studies%20COP21%20NL%20pre%CC%81sentation%20publique.pdf (summary, PPT in Dutch)