Housing Estates as energy projects: Solar energy and a handful local energy projects in Igelbodaplatån, Nacka
In Sweden, almost a fourth of the population live in the tenure form called Bostadsrättsförening, often translated to as Housing Cooperatives in English. As housing policy and tenure forms differ across Europe but also within countries, a Bostadsrättsförening in Sweden can best be described to as a form of indirect ownership of housing in English. Bengtsson et al (2017: 64) explain the difference between direct and indirect ownership as follows:
“The clearest case of direct ownership is a household individually owning a house and the land on which it stands and being individually responsible for the property and all its costs, as well as being the sole beneficiary of capital gains and other benefits. Indirect ownership refers to a situation where ‘the building or property is owned by a legal entity of which the residents are members or joint owners’ and ‘shareholding in the legal entity is linked to the right to a certain dwelling’. In indirect ownership, the owners’ individual rights of use, control and disposition concern only their dwelling, whereas shared spaces and the property as a whole are owned jointly together with other residents and managed collectively.”
Brf Igelbodaplatån is large with about 450 apartments of which a majority are 3-5 room apartments. The buildings were constructed in the late 1960s and in 1971 all of the apartments, distributed over six housing units, were ready. In the past decade, the housing cooperative has undergone a few energy projects such as green retrofitting projects which included change of windows with improved thermal insulation. In addition, installations of downhole heat exchangers (bergvärme), a form of geothermal heating, have had a huge impact on the heating of the buildings, and replaced the former oil boiler. Altogether, these measures have improved the energy classification of the buildings to energy class C (less than 50kWh/sqm per year). Installation of charging stations for EV’s in the underground garage and preparation for future installations is another example of the housing cooperative’s proactive work for future demand. Most known of all energy projects is probably the installation of solar panels on all six housing units’ rooftops in 2020. In total, it produces up to 500,000-540,000 kWh per year. Information of the current energy production can be found here.
Brf Igelbodaplatån is the 52nd largest facilitation of solar energy production in all of Sweden according to a list compiled by Svensk Solenergi in September 2021. If only including roof top facilitations, the housing cooperative is on the 22nd place.
As explained above, all households in the housing cooperatives jointly owns the housing cooperative (except for a few rental housing tenants). In turn, it means that all residents together own the energy projects such as the solar panel production through their indirect ownership in their apartments. The housing cooperative needs to organise an annual meeting. At that meeting, all members are invited, and they elect the board (consisting of members/residents living in the housing cooperative). The board is for example responsible for running the daily operations of the associations, whilst the daily maintenance is commissioned to a property manager (fastighetsförvaltare). Some of the decisions needed for the day-to-day operations are delegated to the property manager, but most are taken by the board of the housing cooperative. Large projects and decisions with huge impact are always taken at the annual meeting or at an extraordinary annual meeting. This includes the decisions taken of for example the installations of solar panels.
Bornholms Havvind: 100% lokalt- og folkeejet – Bornholm Offshore Wind: 100% locally and citizen owned
On the Danish island of Bornholm, a group of local citizens has initiated a large-scale renewable energy project: Bornholms Havvind: 100% lokalt- og folkeejet – Bornholm Offshore Wind: 100% locally and citizen owned. The goal is to establish a 100 MW offshore windmill park off the coast of Bornholm that will be 100% owned by local citizens, companies, and organizations. The aim is to make the island, with around 40.000 citizens, self-sufficient on renewable energy where the projected increase of energy consumption on the island in the years to come are taken into account. With this ambitious project, Bornholms Havvind wish to contribute to both the local as well as the national energy and climate goals.
Photo: Bornholms Havvind
The project is still in the investigation and planning phase, as a series of barriers must be solved before a final green light can be given to the establishment of the windmill park. One of the barriers is that an area reservation in the Baltic Sea must be removed in order to allow the project to continue. According to the original timeline, the group of initiators hope to construct the windmills in 2023-2024 and run the tests and have them fully operational in 2025.
From the very beginning the local citizens, companies, agricultural sector, the municipality, and the local utility company have been onboard and support the project. The plan is to establish an ownership model where all local citizens, companies and organisations can buy shares in the windmill park. How the final ownership model will look like is still to be decided, if and when the project will become a reality.
Different scales of local energy ownership
“The local” in local energy ownership can be understood in different ways. It can for example refer to private ownership by individuals, ownership by a group of people (including so-called energy communities), or ownership by local authorities such as municipalities.
Different types of ownership in energy projects
Local energy ownership can include practical legal or political ownership of energy infrastructure or energy transition processes. However, equally important might be the “sense of” ownership that people can feel by being included and informally engaged in energy transition processes.
Different types of energy-related projects
Local energy projects typically aim to transform or strengthen the energy supply (for instance by putting up solar panels or building wind farms), but they can also include many other types of activities. There are for example energy projects focused on energy efficiency measures, mobility schemes as well as knowledge and awareness-raising campaigns.
Different geographical locations around Sweden
The conditions for local energy ownership might be different in different parts of Sweden, for instance in relation to existing (energy) infrastructure, climatic conditions, or population density.