Upcrowding energy co-operatives - Evaluating the potential of crowdfunding for business model innovation of energy co-operatives

J Environ Manage. 2017 Aug 1;198(Pt 1):50-62. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2017.04.025. Epub 2017 Apr 24.


Practice and theory have proven the relevance of energy co-operatives for civic participation in the energy turnaround. However, due to a still low awareness and changing regulation, there seems an unexploited potential of utilizing the legal form 'co-operative' in this context. The aim of this study is therefore to investigate the crowdfunding implementation in the business model of energy co-operatives in order to cope with the mentioned challenges. Based on a theoretical framework, we derive a Business Model Innovation (BMI) through crowdfunding including synergies and differences. A qualitative study design, particularly a multiple-case study of energy co-operatives, was chosen to prove the BMI and to reveal barriers. The results show that although most co-operatives are not familiar with crowdfunding, there is strong potential in opening up predominantly local structures to a broader group of members. Building on this, equity-based crowdfunding is revealed to be suitable for energy co-operatives as BMI and to accompany other challenges in the same way.

Keywords: Business model innovation; Crowdfunding; Energy co-operative; Renewable energy; Sustainable management.

MeSH terms

  • Commerce*
  • Conservation of Energy Resources / economics*
  • Qualitative Research