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Romania's New Solar Energy Effort - Mihael Gubas

Romania's first energy cooperative, simply called "Energy Cooperative", is the first cooperative in Romania to produce 100% green energy to supply its members, shareholders, and other customers. This cooperative was launched in October 2019 to transform the energy market in that country. A year later, the cooperative announced Bucharest-based but German-owned Apuron Energy, a company founded in 2012. Apuron operates a solar power plant in Mavrodin, Romania, and has up to 150 customers in Bucharest - mostly small and medium-sized enterprises - which it supplies with 40 GWh per year. The cooperative is buying a Romanian subsidiary of a German company for 410,000 euros. The capital for the company's cooperative purchase is collected, among other things, from the members who undertook to cover part of the costs of taking over Apuron. In the first week of launching the solar takeover initiative, they gathered 150 members who have so far covered about 20 percent (they have pledged to collect 16 percent in the first week of the action) of the total cost. The fundraiser will last for two months, and each interested buyer can participate in the project by joining the cooperative and a minimum investment of 103 euros, or 500 lei, to buy Apuron. Larger investments in the cooperative can be presented in the form of a five-year loan to the cooperative.

Since this energy cooperative plans to expand its business in the field of solar energy, the business plan showed that the simplest solution for positioning on the renewable energy market is to buy an existing plant - which is cheaper than building a completely new power plant from scratch. Investors will be entitled to an interest rate of 3.7 percent the first year and 5.2 percent over the next five years, and the tax on this will be 10 percent. The Energy Cooperative's long-term strategy is to build new green power plants, and people seem to be beginning to believe in their plans. Thus, even before the start of the campaign, in the first year of its existence, they gathered 300 members. This is the right time in Romania to increase the importance of energy cooperatives as legal frameworks have been changed to allow citizens to supply energy from green cooperatives.

The argument of the voltage difference

The first Romanian Energy Cooperative was founded by 15 people with experience in business, energy, and activist NGOs. Decisions in the cooperative are made on the principle of one member, one vote, regardless of the invested capital, and it is managed by the Board of Directors, which consists of founding members. This cooperative is an ideal example of examining possible forms of democratization of the energy system that renewable energy sources provide at relatively low prices. In several existing models, the latter is the most desirable. However, it does not have the "revolutionary" potential of the preferred model of building solar panels on buildings and exchanging electricity thus produced at the district level. There is not much information in public about the models of building renewable energy plants, nor is the level of public education anywhere in Europe satisfactory for democratic social structures. The most interesting aspect of solar power plants is that their potential revolutionary stems from pre-existing rules that apply worldwide. Namely, since at the beginning of the use of solar panels several decades ago, there was no technology for storing electricity obtained from the sun, it was necessary to return the locally produced surplus electricity to the national distribution network. But it also produced distribution constraints that prevented electricity from traveling long distances due to the difference in mains voltages from solar and conventional electricity.

The problem of voltage difference has long been the most common argument against solar energy. He landed in the most inconspicuous places, otherwise better known for clouds and precipitation than for large amounts of the sun - in the UK, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, and Germany - where energy cooperatives first began to develop. The problem was solved by distributing the solar electricity produced in one neighborhood on the roofs of individual houses within one neighborhood, which partially solved the problem of voltage differences. Such models have further advanced with the advent of battery technology for storing solar power.

It was then that the solar roof model became dangerous for capital, so in the last ten years, we have been able to see its oppression in Berlin, Spain (in a very radical implementation of unjustified taxation of solar roofs), but also in California, Nevada and Florida. Namely, if all households (where possible) had solar panels on their roofs, their need to buy electricity from large distribution companies would be minimized, and without the excess energy being distributed throughout the neighborhood (rather than being stored). But because of the old rules that all surplus electricity from RES must be sold to large distribution companies, companies would now be forced to pay households that produce electricity for them. If we imagine the widest possible development of the potential of this model, we come to the hypothetical conclusion that large distribution companies would become mere transmitters of energy that they no longer produce themselves but buy from citizens to whom they sold electricity until then. Their costs thus double (because they have to maintain the network), and revenues decrease many times over.

This is then about the unimaginable financial losses of large companies and turning the whole system upside down. Since politics coupled with energy lobbies did not allow this, another model was found that does not turn the system upside down, does not jeopardize the profits of large companies, and at the same time allows citizens a fraction of the rewards they can get from solar power generation. That second model is precisely energy cooperatives. Instead of solar panels on the roofs of houses, they - just like all other large public and private energy companies are now building solar power plants to mass produce electricity from the sun. This model initially has significantly more expensive investment needs due to the need to change the mains voltage for long-distance travel, resulting in large energy losses, but it does not jeopardize profits. And he throws the crumbs of earnings to the middle class, which had the initial capital, no matter how small, to become an investor in the energy cooperative. And so capital has once again brought us thirsty across the water, hiding from us the revolutionary potentials of the cheapest form of household switching to renewable energy. The European Green Plan will certainly fund solariums for citizens, but a great campaign to inform the public about its importance is not expected. More likely, more media space will be given to building centralized solar parks that will be heralded as revolutionary, even though they are the furthest they can be. Their environmental aspect in the context of the waste they will produce has not been mentioned in European policies.


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