EnergyPROSPECTS (PROactive Strategies and Policies for Energy Citizenship Transformation) is a University of Galway led project that aims to develop an innovative conceptual framework to better understand energy citizenship in Europe. Energy citizenship is a means by which citizens can actively participate in energy systems and positively impact a transition to renewable energy sources.  

Funded under the EU Horizon 2020 programme, the project consortium includes nine research partners (universities, research institutes, enterprises and NGOs) from Ireland, Belgium, Hungary, Netherlands, Bulgaria, France, Latvia, Germany and Spain. Professor Frances Fahy of Galway is the project lead. EnergyPROSPECTS is a three-year project that began in May 2021 and is scheduled for completion at the end of April 2024.

The project findings were formally unveiled at a special event in Brussels on March 5, 2024. The launch took place in conjunction with sister projects, DIALOGUES, EC2 and ENCLUDE

As part of EnergyPROSPECTS, methodology was developed for pursuing the overall project aim of identifying the diverse types of energy citizenship. The methodology was created to help answer the following research questions:

  1. Which forms of energy citizenship can be found in Europe today? How can we account for their diversity?
  2. Do we find the same forms in different regions/countries of Europe?
  3. In what contexts do different forms of energy citizenship emerge and develop?

The project findings manifest in several deliverables which highlight a growing culture of energy citizenship in Europe. The project results are evident in the following:

  • Publication of a Factsheet Series and Country Profiles;
  • The project identified and examined a range of cross-cutting issues in energy citizenship, creating a database of 596 cases of energy citizenship from across Europe. The database is presented as an interactive map that shows the scope of energy citizenship in Europe;
  • A total of 40 cases from this database were selected for in-depth analysis exploring development, evaluation, intermediaries, institutions, governance, and ICT in energy systems. This analysis is evident across a range of project specific publications;
  • Using a multi-actor perspective, an empowerment toolkit for practitioners and citizens was developed;
  • The project conducted a citizen survey of more than 10,000 people from across Europe, with a view of appraising the validity of various energy related scenarios.

This article will reflect on some of the cases from Ireland that were subject to in-depth analysis and will present insights for future practitioners, new business, and service models.

What is energy citizenship?

But to begin, what is energy citizenship and why does it matter?

While the term energy citizenship does not yet appear to be used widely in public discourse across Europe, within the policy arena energy citizenship is often referenced in connection to energy prosumerism and energy communities.

EnergyPROSPECTS broadens this association to include further forms of individual and collective engagement with the energy system. This can include using energy-saving appliances, opting for renewable energy solutions, using electric vehicles, and participating in public political processes, such as climate change demonstrations.

In summary, many people engage in some form of energy citizenship, even if they are not aware of it. Energy citizenship is a means by which people can consciously or unconsciously be active participates in energy systems.

This is crucial as it reframes the portrayal of citizens as passive recipients of the energy transition and realigns them as active initiators (Kambli and Thalberg, 2023).

Energy citizenship in Europe

EnergyPROSPECTS documented the active roles citizens play in energy systems across Europe by creating a database that showcases 596 cases of individual and collective energy citizenship.

These cases are evident in an interactive map which capture the diversity of energy citizenship in Europe rather than to map each and every example that exists.

Since a huge variety of cases and initiatives exist that would meet the project’s definition, the project consortium decided that the energy citizenship mapping activity would cover and investigate cases that:

  • Are based in European countries (including EU, EEA and accession countries);
  • Are currently active or were concluded no earlier than 2015 when the Energy Union Strategy was published;
  • Are focused on direct energy production and/or consumption (eg, involving households, organisations, etc), mobility (with a direct connection to energy issues), or those which have a more holistic focus on sustainable and just energy.

Energy citizenship in Ireland

The EnergyPROSPECTS interactive map includes 20 cases from Ireland. These cases include examples of individual energy citizenship, such as Lorna Gold (author, lecturer, and climate activist) and Paul Kenny (former CEO of the Tipperary Energy Agency), and collective energy citizenship, such as the Dublin Cycling Campaign and Ringsend Irishtown Sustainable Energy Community (RISEC).

Alongside mapping these 20 cases, EnergyPROSPECTS selected five cases from Ireland for in-depth analysis by University of Galway researchers Prof Fahy and Dr Benjamin Schmid. The cases are:

  • Aran Islands Energy Cooperative (Comharchumann Fuinnimh Oileáin Árann, CFOAT);
  • Citizens’ Assembly on 'How the state can make Ireland a leader in tackling climate change';
  • EirGrid Public Consultation: Shaping Our Electricity Future;
  • Energy Community Tipperary Cooperative (ECTC);
  • Galway Energy Co-operative.

Dr Schmid notes that in recent years, energy citizenship in Ireland has evolved from "an expansion of energy citizenship from the private dimension, where it is about empowerment in one’s own energy practices, to a public dimension, where citizenship takes the form of sharing in self-government".

This expansion is evident in all Irish cases of energy citizenship subject to in-depth analysis, but a close look at two examples, CFOAT and ECTC, illustrate the scope of this expansion. Importantly, these two cases also illustrate a shift from individual to collective agency, and why this shift matters for communities.

Aran Islands Energy Cooperative (Comharchumann Fuinnimh Oileáin Árann)

CFOAT is a civil society organisation that brings together the residents of the three Aran Islands, Inis Mór, Inis Meáin and Inis Oírr, with a view of becoming self-sufficient in clean, locally owned energy and to help build the local economy of the islands.

CFOAT was created in 2012 out of an initiative of existing local development organisations. At the beginning especially, it relied on funding for community retrofit measures and construction of photovoltaics systems for households on the islands within Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) programmes and EU projects.

Founded in 2002, SEAI is a state-funded agency that provides policy advice and programme implementation (SEAI, 2018). It also established the Sustainable Energy Communities (SEC) model, which is defined as “partnerships between public, private and community sectors whose goal is centred on renewable energy or energy efficiency” (Hannoset et al. 2019).

Dr Schmid highlights that "SEAI has also launched the SEC network to address and promote energy citizens within this community framework. In 2021, there were more than 600 SECs across the country, while SEAI’s goal is to establish 1,500 SECs by 2030, which would correspond to the number of all municipalities in Ireland".

For CFOAT, their engagement with such models is, of course, a significant benefit in terms of energy citizenship. Yet, it is also a means to an end for various "overarching community goals, such as creating jobs, stabilising the population on the islands, preserving the language and culture and the beauty of the natural environment, but also improving comfort in homes" (ibid.)

In short, CFOAT as an active energy citizenship collective is not only a means to assure clean, locally owned energy, but also a way to assure socioeconomic improvements on the islands.

Energy Community Tipperary Cooperative (ECTC)

ECTC is also an example of an active energy citizenship collective that brings together communities, this time in the Tipperary region. ECTC aims to enable communities in Co Tipperary and surrounding areas to create local employment while also reducing their carbon footprints and generating community-owned energy.

Originating in 2014 with four communities collaborating on energy efficiency projects, the initiative has evolved into a formalised cooperative with 15 communities. ECTC’s mission is to leverage funding from the SEAI and provide a ‘One Stop Shop service which takes the hassle out of getting grant aid, sourcing contractors and overseeing projects for the homeowners’ (ECTC).

As with CFOAT, ECTC actively promote a more democratic and self-sufficient local energy system. Consequently, the ‘cooperative actively engages communities to raise energy awareness, promote local employment, and tackle energy poverty, with citizens retaining control through voting’ (Kambli and Thalberg, 2023).


The research conducted by EnergyPROSPECTS reveal that in Ireland, and indeed throughout Europe, opportunities for private, community and public participation in the energy system exist and are already being embraced.

The project shows that energy citizenship is a term that most people may not be overfamiliar with, nonetheless, as a practice it is a means by which individuals and collectives can positively impact the energy system, actively shape the energy transition and enable socioeconomic advancement for local communities.