The transition to renewable energies is at the heart of the Sustainable Degrowth (SD) proposals due to its potential to relocalize and democratize the energy generation in a sustainable way. In this paper, we review the development and current situation of RESCoops in Spain, assessing their strengths, barriers and opportunities as a means towards SD. This is an interesting case study since, unlike other European countries, they have recently arisen in a regulatory and economic hostile context, which have induced particular organizational and operating structures.
We identify strengths coherent with SD in common with social enterprises such as the focus on satisfying needs rather than creating new ones, the high motivation and awareness of the members, and the capacity to provide social and environmental benefits. In terms of barriers to SD, we find difficulties to combine membership growth with participation, a low integration with other social enterprises and a risk of denaturation of the intended change. Also, within a growth paradigm, RESCoops may simply add new generation. We find a dominant perception that renewables could substitute fossil-fuel generation without challenging the system. Finally, not all renewable technologies might be compatible with SD. To date in Spain, RESCoops: (1) remain very minorital; (2) have barely managed to promote new generation; (3) have only focused on electricity; (4) show a weak collaboration between them. The reversal of these trends would increase their potential towards SD. Moreover, we find great opportunities to promote independent research about the energy transition and push towards a distributed energy generation system.
This media entry was a contribution to the special session „Assessment of the potential of Renewable Energy Sources Cooperatives (RESCoops) in Spain towards Sustainable Degrowth“ at the 5th International Degrowth Conference in Budapest in 2016.