Power Cooperatives Are Poised To Grow Across Europe

Roy Palk

Europe, with its embrace of alternative energy, micro grids and other novel approaches, is in many ways ideally suited for the further growth and development of cooperative energy production

Europe’s energy sector could foster robust growth by taking greater advantage of cooperative structures in which customers, rather than governments or outside investors, are the true stakeholders, asserted LeClairRyan attorney Roy M. Palk during the annual conference of the Associated European Energy Consultants (AEEC), May 2-5 in Berlin.

“Unlike the United States, which is replete with electricity and other utility cooperatives, the nations of Europe have yet to leverage cooperatives in a large-scale way,” said Palk, Senior Energy Industry Advisor for LeClairRyan and former CEO of the East Kentucky Power Cooperative. “And yet Europe, with its embrace of alternative energy, micro grids and other novel approaches, is in many ways ideally suited for the further growth and development of cooperative energy production.”

Indeed, a new cooperative—the Transatlantic Energy Cooperatives Alliance—was formed by some of the participants in the event, said Palk, who is based in the national law firm’s Glen Allen, Va., office.

LeClairRyan did the legal work to charter the cooperative in Virginia, Palk explained, and the new entity will likely be based in Berlin. “Right now, we are looking at developing a needs list for the cooperative, and we’re moving forward on a statement of objectives for the organization,” he said. “We will begin the solicitation of membership after that.”

Leading the cooperative are cochairmen Rudi Rienzner, CEO, of the Bolzano, Italy-based South Tyrolean Energy Association, and Kent D. Farmer, President and CEO of the Rappahannock Electric Cooperative in Fredericksburg, Va. Palk was elected Secretary.

“Energy companies in Europe, in general, are farther ahead of their U.S. counterparts when it comes to certain technical aspects of renewable energy—in particular, integrating renewables into existing grid,” he said. “On the U.S. side, meanwhile, we have decades of business experience in making cooperatives thrive. Both sides of this transatlantic cooperative will be learn from and benefit each other.”

Palk traveled to Berlin along with his colleague James P. Guy, II, head of LeClairRyan’s Energy Industry Team and a Shareholder in its Glen Allen and Washington, D.C., offices.

They were joined at the conference by fellow AEEC members from the Berlin-based law firm of Becker Büttner Held (BBH), as well as utility CEOs, government officials and legal, banking and finance experts from Europe and the United States.

The conference focused on challenges and…

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