Energent is an East Flanders cooperative founded in 2013, which unites citizens in their ambition for a sustainable and climate-neutral society. Firstly, Energent works via a third-party payment system on investment projects for renewable energy (solar panels, wind, heat). The cooperative used its members’ money to set up a fund and invests in wind turbines, local heat grids or solar panels on large roofs of schools, public buildings or companies. Profits stay in the region instead of flowing abroad. It means that citizens can be more involved in generating renewable energy and the advantages and disadvantages can be distributed more fairly. Energy is controlled by the citizens themselves. Energent currently has over 1,200 cooperative members and over 9,000 solar panels.
What's more, Energent encourages citizens to invest in making their homes energy efficient via collective renovation projects and group purchases at the district level, such as in the Wijkwerf project. The complexity of the applications for grants or energy loans, and the daunting amount of organisational work involved in renovation works, constitute a major stumbling block for many people. Fully unburdening citizens in financial, technical as well as organisational terms appears essential to convince them, and is organised by a single contact - the renovation supervisor. Energent offers free, personal support for home renovations. The cooperative takes care of the insulation, installing solar panels or heat boilers and monitors the work. It also provides support for grant and loan applications. Since it concerns a group purchase, the cooperative members can expect to pay a reasonable price for their renovation work. 320 interventions have already been carried out in eleven districts. Despite the efforts made by Energent (such as going from door to door), they are only able to mobilise a small part of the district. This reveals the need for a structural support system for collective renovation.
Solar panel installation at the Aalter sports park
Energent invests money from its cooperative members in renewable energy projects and in achieving energy savings.
photo: Energent, 2021
photo: Mieke Debruyne, 2022
photo: Bond Beter Leefmilieu, 2017
What is Energent and how does a citizen cooperative work?
The cooperative co-invests in renewable energy projects and is ecologically and socially committed
photo: Energent, Gent 2014