Sustainable collaboration between municipalities and local energy cooperatives

A design study to the collaboration between Dutch municipalities and local energy cooperatives to contribute to the energy transition

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Sustainability is becoming more important in our society. One of the actions for a sustainable future is starting an energy transition for the reduction of greenhouse gases. For realising this transition, local energy cooperatives are initiated. Within these local energy cooperatives, a collective of citizens is willing to generate and distribute renewable energy. For the development of these projects, a collaboration with the municipality is needed. However, there are barriers within this collaboration that withholds the collaboration to become sustainable. These barriers are defined as: (1) the attitude of the municipality, (2) the group dynamics and group composition of the local energy cooperative, and (3) the ignorance of the two parties. The objective of this research is understanding and designing a process for both municipalities and local energy cooperatives which facilitates their collaboration. Therefore, the main research question is: How can municipalities and local energy cooperatives improve their collaboration to facilitate the energy transition? For answering this question, a literature study is executed regarding the concept of local energy cooperatives, collaboration, governance arrangements, intermediaries, and theoretical perspectives on transition. Insights from these subjects together form the theoretical framework for the rest of the research. A concept of design thinking, the Double Diamond method, is used for the development of the design. This method consists of four stages: Discover, Define, Develop, and Deliver. The method is divided into two diamonds, these diamonds are based on the concepts of divergent and convergent thinking. The first diamond is focussed on defining the problem by executing a literature study, three case studies, and verification interviews. The second diamond is focussed on developing a design by studying other areas and sectors. Together with the insights from the first diamond, this study forms the input for a design. This design is validated in an online survey by the participants of the interviews.