Regional Ecosystem 2: Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes and Grand Est

The regional authority, through its energy agency AURA-EE, supports the establishment of local energy communities in France, particularyl through the Centrales Villageoises (CV) model. Initiated in 2011, the program has facilitated the creation of over 70 local energy communities governed by citizens and involving more than 7,250 shareholders, among which 290 local authorities and 165 local businesses. ACV provides a toolkit and support services covering legal, financial, technical, and organizational aspects. To expand the program, the Association des Centrales Villageoises (ACV) was established in 2018, acting as a One Stop Shop for implementing the CV model, supported by AURA-EE and other regional authorities and organizations. ACV offers technical support, develops new services, and fosters innovation. Within the ECOEMPOWER project, AURA-EE and ACV aim to enhance the One Stop Shop CV model by expanding services such as financing, social engagement, and the development of new renewable energy projects and business models. AURA-EE will focus on sharing its experience, coordinating regional activities, and promoting project activities at the national level, while ACV will lead the further development of the model, accompany pilot sites, and facilitate replication in other regions.

The "Centrales Villageoises" is a pioneering initiative in France designed to engage citizens in local renewable energy companies. Originating from an experiment conducted across eight pilot sites between 2010 and 2014, spearheaded by the regional energy agency of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes (today known as AURA-EE) and several regional nature parks in the Rhône-Alpes region, this initiative has evolved into the establishment of community-owned companies that developed and funded initial photovoltaic projects. Subsequently, the entire technical and legal framework was consolidated, allowing for the replication of the concept on other sites.

In 2018, the Association Centrales Villageoises (ACV) was founded to support the ongoing development of the network. It has since evolved into a comprehensive "one-stop shop" in France, serving as both a physical and virtual center capable of providing technical, economic, and legal assistance to local authorities and citizen groups interested in implementing renewable energy projects.

The 3 pilot sites are:

Centrales Villageoises Eau et Soleil du Lac
Eau et Soleil du Lac is a growing local energy community in Savoie Department, near Aix-les-Bains, following the Centrales Villageoises model. It is a local cooperative company that brings together citizens, local municipalities, and SMEs to carry out renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. It plans to develop: (I) a PV plant project, equipping public and private roofs with PV panels (expected size around 300 kW), and (II) a hydropower project with an estimated size of 200 kW in the coming years.
Centrales Villageoises VercorSoleiL
VercorSoleiL is an established energy community in the Vercors region, operating 29 PV plants with over 120 local participants since 2015. They produce about 365 MWh/year and offer a local e-mobility service. Planning to expand, they aim to provide energy efficiency services, develop new PV and hydro projects, and engage more citizens through improved social outreach and participatory decision-making.
Centrales Villageoises de Vezouze-en-Piemont
Centrales Villageoises de Vezouze-en-Piemont, established in 2019, operates 10 PV plants (425 kW) across villages in the Community of Communes of Vezouze en Piémont in the Grand Est region. With over 80 local citizens, municipalities, and SMEs involved, they produce around 420 MWh/year. Currently, they're exploring investment opportunities in a 5 MW ground-based PV plant, requiring a tailored business model. Additionally, they plan to develop collective self-consumption in collaboration with local stakeholders, emphasizing citizen involvement, social aspects, and shared governance.