Hand in Hand for a decentralized Energy Transition - On the role of support and partner organizations in fostering the establishment and durable collective action of renewable energy producing cooperatives
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In seeking novel ways to addressing global climate change, renewable energy producing cooperatives (REPCs) can potentially generate several benefits with regard to a decentralized energy transition. RECPs represent a direct citizen participation model to realize local renewable energy (RE) projects with a long-term return rate to recover the initial investments, as the main focus of REPCs lies on sufficing member utility rather than increasing short-term shareholder value. They enable local ownership and create regional added-value. REPCs democratic structure and low entrance fee additionally allow for broad citizen participation, independent of income. Due to its dependency on durable collective action in the founding process and the later management of the REPC, many interested individuals or interest groups face the problem that other individuals are often willing to participate in terms of financially investing in the local REPCs and their projects, but only few are willing to also establish and manage the REPC on a voluntary basis in its early development. An additional hurdle is the knowledge that is required from different fields of expertise (e.g. business administration). However, intermediary organizations, like cooperative associations, market actors and local government agencies that support the founding process and the foster the further development of REPCs can potentially help to overcome this issue. Thus far, there is only little scientific research on this issue. This thesis started from the identified the need to generate theoretical and practical insights on the role of the support by intermediate organizations in order to understand the demands of RECPs in the founding process and their further development and improve support. The main research objective was to identify and analyze the impact of specific forms of support provided by intermediary organizations on the establishment and on the durable collective action capacity of REPCs. This objective is fulfilled by firstly establishing a theoretical framework that includes forms of support of intermediary organizations as well as the founding process and the durable collective action capacity of REPCs. The founding process is conceptualized as a project with four phases and respective tasks that need to be fulfilled by the founding members. The durable collective action capacity of REPCs is determined by the management board‘s and other active members’ (1) available human capital; (2) intrinsic motivation (3) and extrinsic motivation. Support by intermediary organizations encompasses (1) financial support; (2) advocacy support; (3) networking or alliance-building support; and (4) provision of research and informational resources. The framework is subsequently applied to explore the joint support concept of the renewable energy cooperative association Verband der Bürger Energiegenossenschaften Baden-Württemberg (VBBW) and the energy provider EnBW Regional AG for interest groups and REPCs in the federal state of Baden-Württemberg in Germany. This is done via a comparative case study, which includes two sample cases of RECPs that received support by VBBW and EnBW and two control cases of RECPs without such support. The data for the case study included semi-structured interviews with active members from the selected sample and control cases, respectively, extensive online research and a survey that was send out to larger, according to selection criteria chosen, sample and control groups. The analysis revealed specific forms of support that are useful to very useful for interest groups in the founding process and that strengthen the durable collective action capacity of REPCs. Useful support in the founding process include (1) the provision of research and information in form of an informational package that comprise all the relevant documents in the founding process (e.g. necessary legal documents, sample code of conducts and business plans); (2) the provision of advocacy support in terms of promoting the founding event through informational flyers and newspaper ads as well as staff provision to host the founding event; (3) alliance-building and networking support through involving the local municipality in the REPC as an additional partner that provides the REPC with rooftops free-of-charge or for a low rent. Useful support to foster the durable collective action capacity include (1) the provision of research and information in the form of seminars on the roles and tasks of the management and advisory board and a member administration software that facilitates the management of the REPC; (2) the provision of networking and alliance-building support through an institutionalized meeting structure, where members can frequently exchange knowledge and experiences with other VBBW REPCs in annual and regional network meetings organized by the VBBW. With regard to the intrinsic and extrinsic motivation of the REPCs’ active members no influence of the support could be discerned. Additionally, it was noteworthy that especially the VBBW RECPs realized much less projects since the amendment of the EEG in 2012, which reduced the profitability of this business model.