The role of community renewable energy in the transition to renewable heating - The case of Germany
Abstract: In the past decades, community renewable energy (CRE) has significantly contributed to the uptake of renewable technology to decarbonise Germany's electricity sector. Meanwhile, the primary source of household emissions – heating – is still highly dependent on fossil fuels, especially gas. With Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the decarbonisation of heating becomes an even more critical issue, given Germany's high reliance on Russia as a gas supplier. While CRE has been widely researched from different perspectives, few studies have addressed its' potential for heating decarbonisation. Therefore, this thesis explores the role CRE has played and can play in the decarbonisation of residential heating in Germany. The research aims to address a pressing geopolitical and energy issue while contributing to a gap in the existing literature. First, the context of heating in which CRE initiatives emerge is explored. Second, the potential of CRE initiatives to contribute to the decarbonisation of heating is investigated by looking at the benefits and obstacles existing initiatives encountered in the past. The research is conducted through twelve semi-structured interviews with representatives from CRE initiatives and umbrella organisations representing them. The findings are clustered according to the CRE development framework by Hicks & Ison (2018) and demonstrate that CRE initiatives can significantly contribute to the transition to renewable heating. Their close connection to citizens can help to build trust, raise awareness, and potentially finance renewable heating projects. However, there are clear obstacles, such as heating projects' high initial costs and technical complexity. Especially without technical expertise or political support, small, non-professional CRE initiatives will struggle with a successful implementation. Hence, policy and decision-makers need to collaborate closely with local stakeholders to enable CRE initiatives to carry out renewable heating projects successfully.
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