Renewable Energy Cooperatives: The integration of RECs in the energy

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This document contains the master’s thesis of Ruben van Eerd. The research was conducted for the finalization of the Master ‘Environment and Society Studies’ at Radboud University in Nijmegen. In terms of transitioning towards sustainability, different approaches of organizing can be taken to achieve the set goals by the UN and the European Union. Renewable energy cooperatives (RECs) pose a significant cornerstone in this transition. This document aims to contribute to the in depth understanding of system dynamics and determinants behind effective functioning and performance of RECs in the context of the Dutch energy system. Within the thesis specific focus is put on identifying key factors in influencing the success of renewable energy cooperatives and their breakthrough in the energy system. Derived from the transition model of Geels (2011), some initial factors were deduced as points of reference. Later on, factors were inductively added throughout the research. A qualitative content analysis is used, combining semi-structured interviews and qualitative content analysis in order to find these key determining factors. Interviews consisted out of semi structured in-depth expert interviews with key individuals involved in RECs, including board representatives, policymakers, and experts in the energy sector. The question that is hereby addressed is: How do different factors explain integration of Renewable energy cooperatives (RECs) into the energy regime in the Netherlands? The findings of the thesis are broad but emerging themes come back to be the following: Soaring fossil fuel energy prices due to the Ukraine war have posed perfect circumstances to invest in renewable energy production. The success of initiation of RECs highly depends on several factors. Respondents mentioned (local) political landscapes, the amount of work that RECs require for people involved, the sometimes lacking professionality of networks, institutional (competitive) advantage in agency of other coalitions of actors, the conservative institutional lens of national government EZK (economic affairs) to look at the energy market and energy sharing, And finally, conflicting agendas of State, market and civil society. These insights can help policymakers, people involved in RECs, advisory parties and other stakeholders to make informed decisions in the energy transition. Findings of this thesis therefore serve as a valuable resource for making ‘just’ decisions. This is becoming more and more important as our modern societies continue to rely heavily on a reliable energy system, that also includes citizen participation in the process. Keywords: Grassroots; Energy transition; Transition; Renewable Energy Cooperatives (RECs); MLP
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen