Energy Cooperatives in Georgia Fight Energy Poverty and Deforestation
January 30, 2019
Energy cooperatives are democratic, social business models with the aim to pursue effective energy transition through citizens’ power. In Germany, 42% of renewable energy is financed by citizens.
Local energy cooperatives, including ‘Charte Mze’ from Khoni, ‘R-Clean Energy’ from Khobi, and ‘Green Energy’ from Mtskheta, have been set up in 2016. Since and before then, their trained staff has produced, installed, and monitored more than 800 solar water heaters, energy efficient stoves and home insulations in the past eight years in rural areas of Georgia. The cooperatives’ main goal is to produce and promote renewable energy and energy-efficient solutions in a gender-sensitive way by replacing the use of firewood and fossil fuels in rural households, small businesses, and public buildings. They are supported by WECF, Greens Movement, RCDA and SEMA.
The ‘Clean Energy—Umbrella Cooperative’ was established as a union of the three local, gender-sensitive energy cooperatives. It also goes by HelioTech, its commercial name. The European cooperative, Clean Power Europe, and the German company, Solar Partner Sued, are also members who contribute with shares and recommendations. The umbrella cooperative aims to combine the expertise and efforts of the local cooperatives to coordinate tasks such as product development, training, and marketing. It is open to collaborating with NGOs, companies, and public actors.
The main product of the cooperatives is solar water heaters, which are produced in accordance with German technology introduced by ‘Charte Mze‘ in Khoni. Through cooperation with micro-credit banks, 0% loans are offered for lease purchasing. A solar water heater has a pay-back period of 4-6 years at maximum due to energy savings. They are of high quality with a 5-year guarantee. Home insulation with natural materials, energy efficient stoves, solar food dryers, and other sustainable technologies are offered as well under the cooperative. These technologies improve the living standards and levels of comfort for women and men, save money on energy spending, reduce deforestation activities, and protect the climate.
Currently, the main barrier is a lack of sales which the cooperative has begun to tackle by launching an Ambassador Program across Georgia. Currently, 116 women are trained as ‘Energy Ambassadors’ in eight regions aiming to promote these technologies; they receive a bonus when they find suitable buyers and clients for the products.
The establishment of the umbrella cooperative was preceded by a series of projects and workshops that resulted in the production of sustainable technologies by trained staff in the respective regions. The process was facilitated by the following partners: Solar Partner Sued GmbH, Energy cooperative ‘Energy2030,’ and NGOs; Women in Europe for a Common Future (WECF), Greens Movement of Georgia, Rural Community Development Agency (RCDA), Georgian Organic Agriculture Association (SEMA), Social Development Center Akhaltsikhe (SDCA) and Ethic Finance. The programs have been financed by the European Union, Grüner Strom, GIZ, GLS Treuhand Stiftung Neue Energie, Urbis Foundation, RAJA Foundation, Heinrich-Böll Foundation, and is currently being run under the WECF Women2030 programme.