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October 2021

[katja.rinne-koski] - 18. Oct 2021, 11:51
The collaboration led by Lahemaa Tourism Association (LTA) to develop the Lahemaa local community continued throughout the year of 2021. The LTA that was established in 2020 now has around 50 members and an advisory board and is growing. The organisation has already initiated several essential developments.

1. Local tour guides` training and certification

The model of co-operation started a year ago where important state agencies helped small enterprises was used again this spring when Lahemaa Tourism Association (LTA) organised local tour guides` training and certification in Lahemaa. There hadn´t been a similar training for a few decades and there was a great need for qualified tour guides. Due to the Covid pandemic, most of the lectures were delivered online and therefore could include a wider audience. Once the registration was opened, tens of applications started to come. So almost 100 participants from all over the country were able to take part in the online course, to learn about sustainable tourism and the values of Lahemaa National Park. 24 local people were chosen to join a group who attended an extra on-site course, participated in the written and oral exams and were certified as Lahemaa tour guides.

The training was a great co-operation experience. The trainers and assessors came from the Environmental Board of Estonia, State Forest Management Centre, the Estonian University of Life Sciences, Visit Estonia, Estonian Guides´ Association, Nature Tourism Association etc. Newly certified tour guides got the opportunity to practice during the summer and will get new courses soon, in addition training for a new group is already planned for next spring. The course was appreciated by all parties and has been rewarded as the learning action of the year in Harjumaa county.

2. The cooperation between the Estonian University of Life Sciences (EMÜ) and the Lahemaa community continued with Community Innovation Lab workshops and summer placement for EMÜ students.

3. Winning the Gold Award in Green Destinations programme

Lahemaa Tourism Association took part in a 2-year Green Destinations pilot programme organised by Visit Estonia. In autumn 2020 we reached the first phase and Lahemaa was announced as one of the TOP100 global sustainable destinations. In the summer of 2021 Lahemaa, as the only destination in Estonia, got a golden award from the Green Destinations. All the hard work filling in 100 criteria paid off.

4. New project to develop a well-performing Destination Management Organisation (DMO)

This autumn we are starting a new project that is supported by Enterprise Estonia and local municipalities to create a well-performing DMO in Lahemaa. In 2 years, we are going to use both virtual and human resources to build Lahemaa aa a sustainable destination that would give its visitors a peaceful but exciting experience.

Kaisa Linno, Lahemaa community leader

August 2021

[katja.rinne-koski] - 06. Aug 2021, 13:13
Energy transition to a zero-carbon society is happening. People need to have a say in the energy transition. It is proven that when community members are involved in the construction of a wind farm or a bio-mass power plant, public acceptance of the project increases tremendously. Countries need energy communities and energy cooperatives for local sustainable development.

An energy community is a way to organise and manage collective energy actions for the benefits of the local community. It works based on democratic principles, in which every member of the community can participate in decision-making in an equitable manner (one member, one vote), and where there are participatory management practices, transparency in decision-making and financial accountability. The main purpose of the energy community must be to provide environmental, economic or social benefits to its members or local community. Also, community members can achieve a financial return on their investment.

A cooperative is a form of business ownership run by and for their members. Their members voluntarily cooperate for their mutual social, economic, and cultural benefit. Like other cooperatives, an energy cooperative is a member-owned corporation created to provide a service for its members that the individual members could not provide for themselves.

A renewable energy cooperative, for example, could be an initiative of local communities and citizens to promote the production and consumption of renewable energy. It is formed by a group of community members that shares a common long-term goal for a sustainable future of energy at the local or regional level. Through active citizenship involvement, the energy cooperative encourages the citizens to become prosumers. Prosumers mean that people act as both producers and consumers of energy in an attempt to democratize energy supplies by shifting away from relying on large companies.

The core values of an energy cooperative are the principles of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity (International Cooperative Alliance 2017).

There is a high potential for energy cooperatives to meet emission targets and supply local communities with decentralized, affordable, safe and renewable energy. In Western Europe, these cooperatives primarily operate wind farms, bioenergy and photovoltaic farms with local and regional scope. They have been supplying and producing renewable energy for the local communities, promoting the energy transition from conventional fuels to green energy.

In Eastern Europe, including Romania, cooperatives are a known concept, but this model is linked with ‘old-fashioned’ and ‘socialist’ images. Cooperative structures are fragile and carved by a profound distrust towards authorities. People have little experience with setting up and managing energy cooperatives that are economically successful and at the same time democratic and cooperative.

Energy cooperatives can act as vehicles for broad democratization and empowerment, fostering self-reliance through collective action and shaping relationships between institutions and civil society that encourage participation.

Energy Cooperative (https://cooperativadeenergie.ro/) is the first cooperative in Romania, which will produce and supply 100% green energy to its members, "shareholders" and its customers. The Energy Cooperative operates as a business that includes two main directions of activity: supply and production of electricity from renewable sources for the community of cooperating members. The cooperative members bring together experiences and expertise from business, renewable energy, NGO sector, rural development, and civic activism.

Energy Cooperative disseminates clear and reliable information to the local community. They operate between national/regional governments and individuals/firms and can play an important role in solving market failures and promoting collective action in rural areas.

Dr. Carmen Păunescu
Expert of the VISEnet project, Romania