Urban planning and renewable energy communities

06 Dec 21

Urban planning and renewable energy communities




Climate change is transforming the way we think about territories and cities, what role can renewable energy communities have in your opinion, within the tools of planning and land management?

In land use planning, the identification of elementary units has always been one of the primary tasks to give order and organize relationships. Among the planning units, we have the homogeneous zones, for which the same urban planning regulations apply. In the post‐war period those zones have been identified according to functions, i.e. intended uses. With an approach more oriented by sociology, subsequently, they were seen as communities of residents characterized by relationships of spatial proximity.

The re‐proposition of the concept of community, even in the case of energy, recalls this ancient urban planning root aimed at fostering exchanges between people who share urban space and adds to it, the potential for cooperation in the energy sector. Since there is this link with the same roots of modern urbanism, there are high possibilities that renewable energy communities may deeply influence planning, in the sense of providing a new interpretative mapping of urban reality. Moreover, through cooperation and mutual assistance, they tend to strengthen those community ties deemed essential to the good governance of heterogeneous urban populations.

A second role played by renewable energy communities in land planning and management has to do with urban metabolism, a concept that is becoming an increasingly pervasive guideline. In fact, the renewable energy communities lend themselves to be interpreted as metabolic units when they aim to close the cycles of matter and energy. In this field, waste management plays a fundamental role if it is accompanied by recovery, recycling and composting plants with energy generation.

A third role played by renewable energy communities depends on the increased efficiency of synergistic energy actions. In new models of planning, perspectives have been advanced for energy and heat production and distribution plants that integrate a variety of users and of energy production from renewables so that complexity absorbs what on strictly specialized lines would be considered waste.

The COME RES project covers a variety of socio‐technical solutions including collective photovoltaics, wind, storage, hydropower and hybrid solutions. What contribution can planners make to overcoming any barriers and incorporating these tools into the spatial policy framework?

The highest challenge is to be able to insert these plants in an urban environment, also considering the wide territorial spread of human settlement from compact centres to urbanized countryside, each of which offers different opportunities and constraints. Urban planning will have to give itself two fundamental tasks in order to fit into the ecological transition:

1) identify the compatibility between energy solutions, on one hand, and building heritage, urban morphology and historical‐cultural values, on the other; providing a guide for the integration of renewable energy communities depends in the urban fabric, and a law provision (in terms of compliance with urban planning instruments) able to provide for the admissible interventions and be clear for both users and administrations so as to simplify, accelerate and make the authorization procedures transparent;

2) implement large network projects that systemize interventions for the construction of renewable energy generation and distribution facilities with land use conformation value, recognizing its value as a common good, so as to make possible any expropriation, where integrated solutions are feasible.


Francesco Domenico Moccia is an Italian architect and urban planner, former full professor on urban planning at the Department of Architecture, University Federico II (Naples ‐ Italy). Since July 2019, he has been Secretary General of the INU.

In November 2021, the National Institute of Urban Planning accepted the invitation to participate in the Italian Stakeholder Desk of the COME RES project, to participate in the national working groups and to follow the progress of the European partnership.

Virna Venerucci, Ecoazioni, is holding a series of talks with experts and stakeholders, on the COME RES project perspectives and on the role of energy communities in Italy, as a contribution to the ecological transition underway and the implementation of the RED II Directive.

Virna Venerucci is an architect with a particular sensitivity for sustainability and environmental urbanism. She is among the founders of the professional firm Ecoazioni and for over 25 years she has been working on National and European research and projects.


Image: Solarimo/Pixabay

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