Completed project: Collective financing of renewable energy

The image shows several people discussing a calculation.

Energy cooperatives enhance the decentralised production of renewable energies, they support municipalities in their energy policy set-up, and due to their organisational form they are supported by municipalities. Their societal and political contribution surpasses the contribution in produced energy.

While energy cooperatives have been studied in various countries, Swiss energy cooperatives had remained unexplored until now. Moreover, hardly any attention had been paid to their business models and financing strategies, the involved actors, forms of collaboration, success factors, and perspectives. The project filled this gap: the research team of Prof. Irmi Seidl from the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL) investigated the situation of Swiss and German cooperatives and contrasted the findings. It also explored the embedding of energy cooperatives, in particular the political context at the local level.


Energy cooperatives can play an important role in fostering the transformation of the energy system at the local and regional level: they take up new debates in the energy sector and in society and serve as a bridge between the two realms. Being “pioneers”, they apply new technologies and organisational procedures (e.g. on-site consumption), collaborate intensively with municipalities, advance municipal energy policies and their implementation, and they reap the benefits of such collaboration. The federalist system provides enough leeway for municipalities to collaborate. Yet, the quantity of renewable energy produced by energy cooperatives is modest: the many cooperatives producing electricity with PV together account for only a 1-1.5% share of the total PV electricity produced in Switzerland and Germany respectively.