ExplainerWhat type of community and public ownership models does this website use?

Public ownership is a term that has often been associated with large scale state control. However, there are many different models of public ownership that encompass different scales, management and governance structures. In mPOWER, we have looked at local authority ownership and community and cooperative models, in a municipal context. Below we have given brief summaries of the main definitions that we are working with so that you can use them to navigate the content on this website, and research other examples that you might find interesting. In academic literature you will find more definitions than the ones given here, but here are some of the most common and useful ones:

Please note: we will use the term ‘energy project’ below to infer a range of things such as the generation and delivery of renewable energy, energy demand reduction projects (i.e. retrofit work) and energy supply projects.


Bringing utilities/energy projects that have previously been owned by the municipality, back under municipal control.

Historically municipalities across Europe have had ownership of public utility companies, such as gas and electricity supply. The sale of these utilities was then used to create revenue for local authorities, which in turn funded the creation of many public services that are still in existence today. Such as public libraries, baths (swimming pools), parks and gyms. As neo-liberalism swept across the western world, and privatisation became common place for the running of public services, municipalities have lost control of their services. This is much less common in Eastern Europe, where many local authorities maintain ownership of their services.

Two great examples of remunicipalisation that we recorded for the mPOWER project are in Wolfhagen, and Cadiz. You can contrast this with Nis in Serbia, who never lost municipal control of their district heating network and so were able to make changes to tariffs; whilst learning some valuable lessons about citizen engagement in the process. See the videos below.

Community and Cooperative Ownership

Community ownership refers to energy projects that are owned and/or controlled by communities. This can be sole ownership, or through partnerships with different organisations (see below).

Cooperative ownership refers to energy projects that are delivered by a cooperative to its members, generally at a reduced rate and run as a not-for-profit. In some cases such as Plymouth (see chunk)

Included in this section would also be Energy Communities.

Community and cooperative ownership models come in different forms, but in the context of energy the main ethos of both is that they are owned and/or led by citizens. There are various different legal structures, which will also vary based on what country the business/company/community group resides in. In co-ops, members have full democratic control of all the activities as well as ownership of the company, whereas in community owned projects, there may still be shareholders - this however depends on how the project is set up. In both models there is democratic control for the users, with decision making power given to how any profits might be allocated. Often this will be to ensure tariffs are affordable, or to create revenue for more projects to be developed.

Further resources:

Mouscrons’ energy cooperative


mPOWER’s key findings on local energy communities


REScoop have some great examples of energy cooperatives from across Europe, and fantastic resources for setting one up!

Public-public, public-commons, public-coop

Partnerships between different public, commons, community or cooperative institutions for the delivery of energy projects.

We have found that some of the most successful examples of ownership have been a combination of public (municipal) and cooperative or community ownership. In these combinations municipalities will work with either an established cooperative, community group or public company to provide an energy project (or any service). The new company will be part owned by the company and the municipality, which can add a level of protection. Other forms of partnership are where the municipality offers capacity to the project, so that the ownership remains solely with citizens, in this model the municipality may be a board member.

You can find out more about this in session 9, or if you want to find out more immediately, check out our video on the value of partnerships between municipalities and civil society.