Funding for the energy industry has historically been dominated by major private or state-controlled institutions. Conventional energies such as fossil fuels require capital outlays of millions and sometimes billions of euros, and hence, understandably, citizens or cooperatives have never fully financed a nuclear powerplant or an offshore oil rig. As the urgency of tackling climate change increases, the energy sector is being reconfigured by financing alternatives made possible by renewable energy technologies that are adaptable to local and community investment. Society is simultaneously becoming increasingly electrified, with global electricity consumption forecast to double from 2021 levels, reaching 50,000 TWh by 2050. Rapid growth in the renewables sector will be crucial for meeting this steady increase in demand.
Local investments involve individuals grouped in cooperatives that fund local renewable projects (particularly onshore and offshore wind/solar photovoltaic). The regulatory framework of such cooperatives varies from country to country and can be highly complex. In France, for example, citizens first form an investor club of 5 to 20 persons, which then purchases equity shares in a Cooperative Society of Collective Interest (CSCI). Finally, the CSCI invests in a Mixed Economy Company (MEC) that owns a renewable asset. By law, the MEC’s main shareholders must be a local public actor such as region and electrification unions, while the remaining part can be citizen-owned.