In my head resonates the poem of the great Spanish writer Antonio Machad:
Caminante, son tus huellas
el camino y nada más;
Caminante, no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar.
Al andar se hace el camino,
y al volver la vista atrás
se ve la senda que nunca
se ha de volver a pisar.
It’s difficult to convey in an English translation the strength that this poem holds in the language of Cervantes, but we will use one of the many translations available on the internet to reach all our readers while preserving the poem in its original version:
Traveller, your footprints
are the only road, nothing else.
Traveller, there is no road;
you make your own path as you walk.
As you walk, you make your own road,
and when you look back
you see the path
you will never travel again.
AURORA embarked on a journey to uncharted lands when we envisioned that energy communities could act as citizen science hubs to promote energy transformations and provide significant benefits to communities both within Universities and in their surrounding communities. Our vision was that participants would be able to co-finance a photovoltaic installation with a dual purpose. Firstly, it would foster inclusive first-hand knowledge of this technology, regardless of the participants’ socio-economic status or limitations they may face to install personal installations. Secondly, it would empower citizens to change their social environments and accelerate a local energy transition with their own resources. To demonstrate this would work collaboration over a demonstration project with the Technical University of Madrid was essential to install a PV facility on the University rooftops.
Over the past 18 months, various forms of public-private partnerships, from cooperatives to foundations, have been studied into how this could be done. Multiple reasons, not always strictly legal, have temporarily hindered the unlocking of these pathways within the UPM. Nevertheless, we have continued to explore alternative options with the university’s authorities, to enable citizen participation in renewable installations in institutions like the university. Such business models will apply not only to the university but also to any other public institution.
We have identified limitations in existing Spanish and EU Law that have hindered our progress. We have opened discussions with officials in the EU (DG Clima) in how they may be overcome and will prepare a policy paper to clarify the full details of these constraints. This policy paper will be shared on our website. Also see a recent paper “Igniting University Communities: Building Strategies that Empower an Energy Transition through Solar Energy Communities”
Whilst we await the outcome of these discussions we have identified an intermediate solution where the university community will be able to deliver its photovoltaic installation in this academic course 2023/24. Full details of this approach will be shared with the potential members of the Campus Sur Energy Community in October. We intend to provide a detailed explanation of the planned actions and finally begin the formation of the energy community that the campus has long yearned for. Details of our solution will be shared in our Winter Newsletter and on our website.
We feel like trailblazers, creating new paths. We hope that at the end of AURORA, the path we have walked will be one that no one else ever treads upon, and we will have a direct shortcut to the final solution, which will enable the public administration to effectively become a valuable partner in supporting energy transition alongside the citizens.
We have a vision where every University community comprising students, teaching & research staff and all support service staff, will be able to set up Energy Communities that have a stake in the energy transition of their institution. Universities can and should be leaders in this field and an inspiration to their surrounding communities.
For any inquiries or more information, feel free to reach out and we can link with your University to share our experiences in driving forward positive action to tackle climate change.
Dr. Ana Belén Cristóbal López
Solar Energy Institute
AURORA Project Coordinator
Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Spain