Energy Communities as Demand-Side Innovators? Assessing the Potential of European Sases to Reduce Demand and Foster Flexibility
Energy communities (ECs) are widely recognised for their potential to generate renewable energy. By contrast, the capacity of ECs to reduce energy demand and foster flexibility has attracted little attention to date, despite their theore...
Energy communities (ECs) are widely recognised for their potential to generate renewable energy. By contrast, the capacity of ECs to reduce energy demand and foster flexibility has attracted little attention to date, despite their theoretical potential to do so. To address this gap, we apply three perspectives – social representations theory, actor-network theory, and business models – to the analysis of nine case studies based in six European countries (Germany, Italy, Slovenia, Sweden, Netherlands, and United Kingdom). The core of the article comprises analysis of the nine cases from each perspective. Our results highlight the (un)intended effects of ECs on the energy representations of members; the configurational work required by focal actors to assemble new socio-technical configurations; and the value creation and capture opportunities open to ECs in the creation of novel business models; These factors in turn impact whether and how ECs achieve demand reduction and flexibility. We summarise and discuss these results in a process of meta-theoretical triangulation to produce a multifaceted and relational account of the potential of ECs to develop demand-side solutions. This leads us to conclude that ECs have a distinct capacity to develop demand-side solutions, rooted in the creation of innovative socio-technical configurations; and that this distinct capacity of ECs has the potential to complement and extend the contemporary focus on the use of market mechanisms to achieve demand reduction and increase flexibility.