a community-based renewable energy solution

1. The Biogas and Biomethane sectors


1.1 Introduction  

Biogas is a green gas produced from the anaerobic digestion of organic material (such as plants, organic waste, animal by-products etc.) which has multiple applications and can be used to generate heat and power.  

Biomethane is the purified form of biogas, consisting of nearly 100% green methane, making it suitable for injection into the natural gas grid or use as a vehicle fuel. It is a direct and sustainable alternative to fossil natural gas with a below zero emission profile and is the cheapest and most scalable form of renewable gas today.  

Under the REPowerEU Plan, the European Commission has set a target to produce 35 billion cubic meters (bcm) of sustainable biomethane annually by 2030. This goal aims to provide a renewable and local source of gas to replace fossil natural gas in various economic sectors. 

1.2 Benefits of biomethane 

Biomethane offers numerous environmental, economic, and social benefits, including: 

  • Use of sustainable feedstock and circularity potential: Biomethane can be produced from household organic waste, industrial waste, agricultural residues and sustainable forms of biomass. This not only provides an effective waste management solution but also promotes circularity by converting waste materials into valuable energy resources. 
  • Decentralized Production Model: given the close link to the agricultural sector, biomethane production can foster new job opportunities and economic development in rural regions. 
  • Organic Fertilizer: Its production process naturally generates digestate, an organic fertilizer that can be used in agriculture to replace synthetic fertilizers enhancing soil health and restoring degraded soils. 
  • Emission Reductions: Biomethane can replace fossil fuels in multiple sectors, thereby reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and directly contributing to the energy transition. Additionally, using digestate as a fertilizer further reduces GHG emissions by replacing synthetic fertilizers’ production. 
  • Energy Security: EU-produced biomethane reduces dependence on gas imports, improves Europe’s energy security, mitigates energy prices, and offers a tangible solution for energy poverty. There is a substantial potential available providing European form of green gas made by European technology. 
  • Decarbonization of industrial CO2 Use: Biomethane production involves the separation of pure biogenic CO2 from methane. This CO2 of biological origin can replace fossil-derived CO2, needed in various industrial applications, and contribute to GHG removals. 

1.3 Advantages that the biomethane sector can deliver to energy communities 

The inherent characteristics of the biomethane sector make it an important energy source to consider for the development of successful and resilient energy communities, yet it is often overlooked. 

Here the direct advantages it could offer: 

  • Creation of Local Supply Chains: Given its connection to agriculture and local waste, this sector is perfect for fostering energy communities reliant on nearby resources, thus facilitating the development of decentralized and self-sufficient supply chains. 
  • Rural Development: Introducing a decentralized model has the potential to spur growth in rural areas, generating employment opportunities and bolstering the economic landscape for farmers. 
  • Cost Reduction for Farmers: Offering a cost-effective waste management solution and a reliable source of organic fertilizer, the sector can directly alleviate financial burdens for farmers. 
  • Circular Economy and Environmental Protection: By bolstering the circularity of local communities, this sector can deliver substantial environmental benefits, reducing waste and mitigating GHG emissions. 
  • Energy Security Contribution: the sector can contribute to energy accessibility and affordability by directly reducing energy costs for the community, but it can also foster awareness and raise the level of commitment among citizens towards the energy transition, enhancing overall energy security. 
  • Community Engagement and Networking: by fostering strong networks among all different stakeholders involved, the sector ultimately helps create more resilient and cohesive communities. 

2. Energy communities

2.1 Introduction 

Energy communities are one of the key elements for achieving the EU’s energy transition: by 2050, half of Europe’s citizens could be producing up to half of the EU’s renewable energy [1]. 

These communities offer individuals, businesses, and local authorities a platform to actively combat climate change and facilitate the shift towards a renewable, resilient energy infrastructure. 

EU regulations grant energy communities the flexibility to take various legal forms, such as associations, cooperatives, partnerships, non-profit organizations, or limited liability companies. This diversity allows for adaptable structures tailored to local needs and preferences. 

In the face of energy price volatility, energy communities emerge as robust entities, ensuring access to affordable clean energy for consumers. Through strategies like self-consumption or demand shifting during peak energy price periods, they mitigate the impact of price fluctuations, imbalances, or congestion issues on consumers. 

2.2 Benefits of energy communities 

Energy communities offer a means to reshape our energy systems by empowering citizens to play an active role in the energy transition. They offer tangible benefits to participants, including increased energy efficiency, reduced electricity bills, lower carbon footprint, as well as support to the local economy and creation of local job opportunities. 

2.3 Legal definition

Energy communities are legal entities that empower citizens, small businesses and local authorities to produce, manage and consume their own energy.

At the EU level, energy communities must meet the following criteria:

  • The community must be effectively controlled by shareholders and members residing near the renewable energy projects.
  • Shareholders or members must be comprised of individuals, local authorities (such as municipalities), or small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
  • The primary goal of the community should not be financial gain, but rather to deliver environmental, economic, or social benefits to the community.

3. Biomethane use in energy communities

3.1 The current situation

Energy communities are growing rapidly in Europe, but mostly focus on solar and wind power. We’re missing out on using biomethane, which could make a large difference. Indeed, it can directly replace fossil fuels and help us cut down on CO2 emissions.

Under ideal conditions, technical estimates[2] suggest that an energy community centered around a biomethane plant producing 500 Nm3 of green gas per hour from can provide energy for 3,973 households in a village for an entire year. Additionally, it can create 64 new jobs, produce 606 tons of organic fertilizer and prevent 21,168 tons of CO2 emissions annually.

Small-scale bioenergy systems based on local resources seem to be one of the most promising solutions to ensure, for example, a more sustainable heating[3]. More specifically, there is great potential for fostering energy independence for rural and remote areas[4]. The measurable demand, the availability of regional sources i.e. biomass, and the availability of land provide the optimal settings for local energy system development, through decentralized energy community projects.

To make this happen, we need to reach out to the communities, show the benefits and create together access to the various waste streams, agricultural residues and sustainable biomass.  The local actors are key players in making a local circular community work and can help set up reliable supply chains for sustainable biomethane, turning waste and agricultural residues into useful green energy.

3.2 The role of public authorities

The best initiatives often come from partnerships between citizens and local governments. Municipalities understand the needs of their region and the biomass resources available locally, making them key partners in making community energy projects work[5].

4. Useful sources

Want to learn more? There are plenty of useful sources online. We recommend you to consult the following: 

  1. The Energy Communities Repository.

On this European Commission website you can find:

  1. The Rural Energy Community Advisory Hub. This is an initiative by the European Commission which provides specific support to rural based energy communities.
  2. The BEEcoop project. This project was funded by the European Horizon 2020 programme and provides technical and business support tools for unlocking the market potential of community in the bioenergy sector.



[2] Data are taken from the Green Impact Translator, an online converter tool created by the European Biogas Association.

[3] Source: BECoop replication handbook – a comprehensive guide for community-based bioenergy projects – BEcoop project (

[4] Rural areas are of great importance to achieving EU’s decarbonisation and energy security goals, as they comprise 80% of the EU territory, are home to 57% of its population and account for 46% of gross value added. Source:

[5] Source: BECoop replication handbook – a comprehensive guide for community-based bioenergy projects – BEcoop project (