Strength from power: Meriam Koekkoek explains energy cooperatives

As something of a bare necessity for a functional and comfortable modern life, energy efficiency and best practice is a cornerstone of the holistic and inclusive social housing models in much of the world. Energy cooperatives let communities take control of their energy production and supply, and maximise efficiency in supply and maintenance. From HIER Opgewekt we have Merian Koekkoek, talking to us about how exactly such schemes work, and how they can help communities become more sustainable.

Article by Crispin Pownall, ISHF team

Hello Meriam! Can you tell us a little bit about your background?

Hoi! I am originally from the Dutch city of Zwolle, and now live in Amsterdam. My academic background is architectural engineering. My professional concern is my work for the Dutch platform for local energy cooperatives, where I specialize in knowledge development and innovation.

What is your relation to social housing?

I used to work for housing associations in Holland, helping them to make their houses more energy efficient.

Now for HIER opgewekt I am working on how to turn neighbourhoods into sustainable local systems, including some co-ownership projects. The purpose of an energy cooperative is to help people take ownership and responsibility of their own energy supply and so assist them in being able to make it sustainable and affordable. I am especially interested in the different forms of social housing in Europe. In the Netherlands, social housing companies got bigger and bigger, and their roots spread out across many institutions. This could be an opportunity for new ways to organize our needs for good quality, affordable and sustainable housing.

You are working for a platform for energy cooperatives. What does this entail?

It’s a knowledge platform. Local energy cooperatives are still developing and growing in the Netherlands. The platform facilitates open source innovation by connecting local energy cooperatives and their regional organisations.

What are you expecting at the International Social Housing Festival in general?

I expect to learn from experiences in other European countries. Sharing and learning from each others’ experiences is so important for progress.

You registered for the collaborative housing event, by Legacoop Abitanti and FHS, why?

Because I expect to hear about the different forms of social housing there.

Cooperatives are becoming increasingly popular to organize housing, energy, food etc. Why do you think cooperatives are this popular?

The reasons are endless, I could go on for ages. I think in the end we all want to have a good life! People are realizing that, now more than ever. We used to think for a while that the majority of what individuals want, leads to the best outcome. I think we learned that this is not the case- we need to involve all stakeholders. In fact, people are searching for ways to reconnect with their social surroundings again. Communities are increasingly striving to get a grip on their lives by organizing things together instead of waiting for somebody else to do it. I see this happening with energy cooperatives. It is spreading so fast, people can see that it is really efficient and positive.

How can cooperative housing be combined with cooperative energy production?

I am not really a fan of combining everything with everything, because I think professionals need to keep independent. But… I know a few smaller projects that combine cooperative housing with cooperative energy. In the end energy is just one of our needs when it comes to our homes. Cooperative energy production at the moment is mostly focused on wind and larger solar systems. At HIER opgewekt we believe that in the future, because we also need a sustainable solution to heat our houses, energy and housing will even be more connected.

What would you like to achieve with your participation?

This is a great event! I  would like to learn a lot  about the different forms of social housing from all over the world, and meet the interesting people behind it!



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