Creating a local energy community supported by a token system & blockchain technology (Stanz, Austria)
Access to the Tool :
Contact person : Rainer Rosegger
E-mail : email@example.com
The purpose of this tool (report) is to present the process of setting up a local renewable energy community combined with a local digital currency, aligned with Article 22 Renewable Energy Directive II 2018 of the European Union. Setting up an energy community is highly context-specific, among others, the process depends on the relevant national legislation. This tool highlights the process (initial steps implemented) in Stanz (Austria), one of the selected Smart Rural 21 villages.
Local renewable energy communities can be proactive in the technological (e.g. the use of blockchain technology in the case of Stanz) as well as social (engaging community members, creating climate-smart lifestyles, etc.) areas of innovation. The purpose of the Report on ‘Stanz Token: Examining opportunities to combine a digital local currency with a renewable energy community in Stanz im Mürztal’ is to present how to combine blockchain and token systems with setting up an energy community. In the case of Stanz, the medium-term plan is to combine the renewable energy community with a local currency/token system, if such implementation is both technically, socially and legislatively feasible. The token engineering study considered the legal, technical, economic and ethical aspects in order to create a merger of the energy and existing voucher systems. The conclusion has been to focus on the implementation of a token-based management of the energy supply within the renewable energy community (without combining it with the current voucher-system).
How does it work?
A series of steps have been implemented in Stanz– with support of the Smart Rural 21 project – to prepare the ground for the REC combined with a digital local currency:
- Baseline Analysis: The initial support concerned the analysis of the current state-of-play in Stanz concerning stakeholders engagement with the energy community idea.
- Identifying relevant examples & cases: Cases of Renewable Energy Communities and processes for accelerating transitions to renewables were identified – with the support of a specialist expert – considering the local conditions, i.e. making sure that the examples identified are relevant for the rural community (see Report on Best Practices of Renewable Energy Communities). The purpose has been to learn from the experience of others.
- Research on Blockchains & Local Currencies (relevant in case of combining REC with local currencies): Desktop research on good practices of local currencies and innovative applications in the field of blockchain has been carried out. Relevant case studies were contacted. Best practices were also presented to stakeholders in Stanz, making the project tangible and feasible for the local community.
- Working groups & semi-structured interviews: Stakeholder engagement has been crucial. Working group meetings took place, followed by an information event on the Renewable Energy Community (REC) for citizens of Stanz. A total of over 70 people attended the event. A series of semi-structured interviews, focus group discussions, and workshops were also conducted with local stakeholders and professionals.
- Stakeholder analysis: All relevant stakeholders (persons and groups) in the context of the Stanz Energy Community and the municipal energy transition were researched. These stakeholders were analysed in terms of relevance, influence, resources, interests, possible support and potential use cases.
- Token System Design Stanz Coin: Out of different token economy standards and infrastructures the most relevant cases were identified. The design of the token system was carried out based on the findings of the social science research, workshop results, and stakeholder analysis, including economic, technical, and ethical engineering and the design of legally compliant smart contracts.
- Open Space Conference for community engagement: The aim of the open space conference was to exchange and discuss previous results from the field research and participation as well as with regard to the token design at expert level. Topics discussed included technical and legal issues & social innovation.
- Seeking legal advice has been important to understand what is possible in a local context, especially understanding the national legislation to build blockchain technology in electricity exchange, generating energy tokens and combining them with a local digital currency.
- Drawing conclusions and planning next steps: Based on the analysis the next steps in the implementation (both technological and social engagement) can be planned (e.g. formal simulations for the business model, translating the business logic into more technical/ formal requirements for implementation, work out the first prototype, legal consultations, etc.).
Who is the tool for?
The report on ‘Examining opportunities to combine a digital local currency with a renewable energy community’ is primarily for rural communities (municipality or other leaders & teams) who are also considering setting up a Renewable Energy Community at the local level with the aim to become energy-independent, in combination with social and technical innovation. National legislations vary widely, therefore, the context might not be relevant for all rural communities (and for the same reason could be particularly relevant for rural communities in Austria). However, all member states must implement the requirements of the European Union. Renewable energy communities are considered to play a significant role in the energy transition, climate targets and resilience in Europe.
Communities who are also considering using local currencies, and possibly combining it with the REC – as it is the case in Stanz – might find particularly useful the findings of this analytical report. The report also contains several successful examples on REC, on the use of blockchains and local currencies.
Do’s and Dont’s
- Always involve the community: Local energy communities are just as much about technological innovation as about social innovation. You need to keep the relevant and interested members of the community engaged.
- Understand the needs of interested community members: Consider and (regularly) talk to all community members who might have an interest in the REC, including municipality leaders/ mayors, associations – including REC association if it exists, private households, farmers, entrepreneurs, children/youth, “non-digitals”, volunteers, etc.
- Communicate clearly and don’t speak in a technical language to the community: Community members need to be presented with simple messages, explained in simple terms (do not use technical language). Cases from elsewhere can also help demonstrate the benefits of REC to members , municipalities and communities. Creating a dedicated webspace for interested parties should be considered.
- Start small-scale: Build the renewable energy community step-by-step and draw lessons at each stage. Start with simple prototypes (e.g. energy flows in connection with the PV-installation on the roof of the primary school) in order to make fast progress and increase learning rates.
- Create the right balance between producers, prosumers and consumers for the functioning of an energy community. In order to make the best possible use of the potentials of an energy community, the aim should be to achieve the highest possible level of joint self-consumption of energy. Automation and technologies such as blockchain can also play an important role here.
- Understanding the legal requirements is crucial: Involve specialist experts who can help to understand the legal implications of the REC in your national/ local context. Legal evaluation of the system and a translation into concrete legal questions is important.
How was the tool used already?
Stanz im Mürztal is located in a rural area in the Austrian province of Styria with a total population of 1,855 inhabitants, in a side valley of Mürztal. To strengthen the community’s resilience and autarky Stanz im Mürztal has focused on the exploitation of local renewable energy resources. The process started in 2020. The Smart Rural 21 project provided support to carry out research and stakeholder engagement for the planning of an REC, examining opportunities to combine a digital local currency with a renewable energy community. The outcome of this work is presented in the Report on ‘Examining opportunities to combine a digital local currency with a renewable energy community’ that forms the basis of further planning and establishment of the REC & Token System.