Journal article Open Access

Harnessing citizen investment in community-based energy initiatives: A discrete choice experiment across ten European countries

Wu, Hangjian; Carroll, James; Denny, Eleanor

In recent years, energy initiatives (such as energy cooperatives) have been expanding across European countries to meet the increasing demand for innovative solutions to renewable energy generation and distribution. However, research exploring citizens' acceptance of these new business models remains scarce, especially from the perspective of citizen investors. In this paper, we examine citizens' willingness to invest in energy projects through energy cooperatives and energy crowdfunding platforms. Using a discrete choice experiment with a sample of approximately 2000 EU citizens, we contribute to the growing literature on citizen investment in the energy sector by comparing citizens' stated engagement across ten European countries, many of which have not previously been examined in the literature. Our results provide evidence that citizens are willing to invest in renewable energy through energy cooperatives or crowdfunders. Investment returns and environmental benefits are important factors considered in making investment decisions, demonstrating both the financial and non-financial motivations of citizen renewable investors. The importance of several governance attributes, such as minimum amount of investment or the type of issuers in the case of civic crowdfunding, are also highlighted. Our findings also suggest the existence of a moderate level of preference heterogeneity regarding, e.g., carbon emission reductions, project location and minimum investment across different surveyed countries and different social groups (e.g., age, prior experience with energy initiatives) for both business models, which provides considerable implications for the generalisability of energy initiatives to different populations.

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