6 December, 2021

Stories from the front lines: “Energy to strengthen communities”

The first energy and solidarity community in central and southern Italy was born out of “a dream” said Anna Riccardi, of the Famiglia di Maria Foundation. She works in the eastern area of Naples, where “citizens are used to being deprived of things rather than receiving them.” In Italy, 1 in 10 households cannot heat their home adequately.

An environmental group, Leggambiente Campania, got in touch with Anna with a big idea: an energy community in the east of Naples to produce renewable energy and distribute it to households. Households would also benefit financially from the project, receiving around 300 euros each per year. “It’s a true redistribution of wealth for low-income households, in a community that is deeply attached to values of social justice,” said Anna.

The project, which started this summer, involves several research centres to exploit local renewable resources like the sun and the sea. It includes community work, to empower people to manage these local resources while offering them a chance to reduce their energy expenses.

We see energy as a common good. When energy is renewable, cheap or even generates benefits, it strengthens and builds resilience in the community,” explains Marco from the Con Il Sud foundation, which helped fund the project.

The project also brings together families and members of the new energy community in environmental education projects that include intergenerational programs. “When people have access to training on environmental issues, they’re empowered to take action,” says Anna.

The founders of the energy community hope the initiative can be replicated in other cities, to reduce energy poverty, act on climate change, and strengthen communities — building both social and environmental justice in Italy.

Community energy projects have tremendous potential to build a just, efficient and renewable energy system based on local resources and needs. The Right to Energy coalition calls for the recognition of the role of community energy in alleviating energy poverty, and support for energy democracy projects fighting energy poverty.

This story was presented during an event organised by the Alleanza contro la povertà energetica.