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Electricity prices – unfair comparisons 18 December 2012

Posted by cooperatoby in Brussels.
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Electricity meterI’ve just learnt a new and total distrust of price comparison sites – Belgian ones anyway. The other week our copropriété decided to switch electricity providers, and Essent looked the best. I typed my private consumption details into Mesfournisseurs.be – and was told that switching to Essent would save me not the 17% I expected but, wait for it, 100% of my bill – yes, my power would be free. I am sceptical it would work out like that in practice.

This morning, stung by an abnormally high Internet bill from EDPnet, I took up their own suggestion and compared prices on besttariff.be. Strangely, whatever probable or improbable usage estimates I key in, it always always recommends Belgacom – and at prices higher than I am currently paying!

There are some rubbish programmers around, hiding behind glitzy web design. It makes (seasonal) mincemeat of information assymmetry being the main barrier to fair markets. Maybe good old fairness – ethical business practices – would work better.

Invest in Luxembourg!

It’s not what you might think. The Lucéole co-operative is inviting subscriptions to invest in a wind farm at Fauvillers in Luxembourg province. it offers an ethical investment at a fair return.

Co-ops are an idea whose time has come back 6 December 2009

Posted by cooperatoby in cooperative, EU, social economy, Social enterprise.
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Michael Stephenson at the EP on 1 Dec 09

With 29 MPs, the Co-operative Party is the 4th-largest party at Westminster. (It is by the way the only co-operative party in the world, apart from the Cooperative NATCCO Network Party, which holds one seat in the Philippine House of Representatives). It was founded in 1917 and has had a Brussels branch since 1982. On 1st December its General Secretary, Michael Stephenson, came to the European Parliament to talk to us. And unwittingly we seem to have held the first meeting the Parliament has hosted on the subject of co-operatives for about 10 years.
He pointed to a renaissance of co-operativism in Britain; in the last decade NHS foundation trusts, co-operative trust schools and football supporter’s trusts have all brought consumer co-operation into new fields. Even the village shop in Ambridge is organising a community share issue! Two areas where a start has been made but much remains to be done are housing and energy.
The financial crisis has shown the strength of mutualism in housing finance – they tend not to freeze credit, they charge lower interest rates, and their structure is intrinsically more stable. Yet, incredibly, the city establishment seems locked in to its unsustainable greed-based model. Till now, the public seems to have naively retained its faith in the esoteric knowledge that financiers claim to have. But at last polls are showing that the RBS directors’ attempt at blackmail to preserve bonuses may be the straw that has broken the camel’s back. It may mark the downfall of the Tory claims to be the party of the poor.
In energy, a cluster of co-operative wind farms like Westmill shows that ethical investors are keen to do their bit against climate change, and the movment is running a well-thought-out campaign on climate change, ACT!.
The meeting chimed well with an initiative of Co-operatives Europe to launch a Network of Co-operative MEPs, whose first meeting takes place in Strasbourg on 14th December, part of a campaign to raise the co-operative movement’s profile in European politics. Two coming opportunities are the EU2020 consultation and the inaugural hearings of the new Commissioners.
Co-operatives have a unique political offer. They are in the lead on a number of issues with which the public engages, such as fair trade and climate change, but they haven’t got the best out of the system. The movement’s job is to put together the narrative and the evidence to create the impact they deserve to have. Right now the Labour Party is receptive to new ideas – so there is a real chance that co-operative solutions will be taken up.

A note on energy consumers’ co-ops in Europe 21 November 2009

Posted by cooperatoby in cooperative, EU.
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The co-operative energy sector is developing fast but very disjointedly in Europe. There are several different angles. Some countries are at the level of exhorting citizens to buy green, some have co-ops brokering electriticity from renewable sources, some have co-ops that generate power themselves, and others that hold shares colectively in large utilities.

They are big in the USA of course.

In Europe, an initiative has been taken to create a federation, and an event was held at the European Parliament on 30 April 09, at which co-ops presented good practice examples. Among others Bob Burlton and Ray Collins from the UK were involved.
Also Co-operatives Europe ACT! Co-ops addressing climate change:


Baywind’s spring 2016 newsletter reports £10m raised in 2015 and now 20 community-funded wind and solar plants in membership. Even though tax reliefs have been slashed there’s a steady flow of new projects.

http://www.enercoop.be/ – promotes renewables
Windmills are contentious: http://eoliennes-wallonie.energies-dyle.be/

founded as a reaction to state energy liberalisation and nuclear dominance in 2004 and incorporated as a SCIC in 2005. Admitted individuals from 2007. now has 4,500 customers, most of whom are also shareholding members.

Cooperativa Eléctrica San Francisco de Asís, trading as Grupo Enercoop, is based in Crevillent near Alicante. It was founded in 1925 by textile industrialists and individuals, who wanted cheaper power than the big companies were providing. It is now one of Spain’s biggest energy co-ops. It has solar and photovoltaic generation.
The Comunidad Valenciana has 16 electricity co-ops that undecut private companies by 5-75 and serve 43,000 families and businesses. They have a facebook support page at http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=60514432693&v=info#/group.php?v=info&gid=60514432693


Built its first mill in 1991 and now has a 2MW windmill at Oudekerk, plus a 600 kW and 2 x 80 kW. it has a share capital of €50 per member, and members’ money in excess of that is in the form of loans. They are currently (2008-9) piloting a ‘self-delivery’ model whereby members use power generated in their own mills, which is free of VAT and energy tax. Utility Eneco does the billing and deducts self-supplied power from their normal bill.
On the planning issue they point out that 1000 years ago Holland had 10,000 windmills, yet today a mere 2,000 will supply the entire population.


Meanwhile in October 2009 in Freiburg, Germany, they have started a co-op to by a large chunk of an energy company. They are taking advantage of the forced divestment by E.ON-Ruhrgas of its subsidiary Thüga to a consortium of 50 local authorities. The co-operative (EiB) aims to buy €100 million worth of Thuga shares so as to have a real influence. By the end of October over 4,000 investors had contributed €21.5 m.


The first windmill co-op started near Aarhus in 1980 and was the fit of many, but latterly large companies have taken the lead. Today about 155 of turbines are co-ops. However legislation from January 2009 obliges them to give at last 20% ownership to local people, i.e. co-ops. (i.e. as with Kilbraur in Scotland).

Update October 2016

How things have changed! Much good news in the ”Cooperative News” report on Community Energy Fortnight 2016.

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