Background: The Eurostat statistics on the 28 EU member states’ performance in relation to renewable energy show that the Netherlands comes 25th in the EU-28. Yet, 500 initiatives were started by citizens and social groups over the last years to produce and consume renewable energy. The central question is whether these local renewable energy initiatives can be seen as a radical innovation or whether—and to what extent—they can contribute to a transition towards renewable energy production or consumption in the Netherlands. Methods: Content analysis and case studies were the methods used in this study. Results: The establishment of local energy cooperatives is a niche innovation in an early stage of development, and their impact on the energy production system is small, whereas local wind energy cooperatives are qualified as in a mature stage of development. Two of the four case studies of front-running local energy cooperatives demonstrate an energy transition or radical innovation in their home or facility area. One of the energy cooperatives developed an innovative concept that has potential for the production of wind energy (Deltawind). The other three energy cooperatives use a concept (sell green energy and produce renewable electricity) that is probably not suitable for large groups of clients, and the possibilities of up-scaling this formula are limited. The success of one of these three energy cooperatives (Texel Energie) is driven by the characteristics of the facility area and the social and other conditions on the island of Texel. Conclusions: Because of the small scale of these initiatives, the performance of the Netherlands in renewable energy statistics and the rise of local energy cooperatives are not contradictory. Local wind energy cooperatives have proven to be successful, and under specific circumstances, other local energy cooperatives can be successful as well. The potential of the concept to contribute to energy transition or radical innovation is better for the local wind cooperative than for the other energy cooperatives. However, the uniqueness of each of the case studies prevents an easy reproduction of successes. The idea of up-scaling successful concepts is too simplistic, but acquiring knowledge about the mechanisms underlying energy transitions or radical innovations seems to be valuable.

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Energy, Sustainability and Society
Department of Public Administration

Hufen, H., & Koppenjan, J. (2015). Local renewable energy cooperatives: revolution in disguise?. Energy, Sustainability and Society, 5(1). doi:10.1186/s13705-015-0046-8