Energy communities: if not now, then when?

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes, 48 seconds

Energy communities are a necessity, an urgent need right now, not just an ideal. They are a viable solution that generates widespread awareness, through implementation of the 2018 European directive, of the central role this energy model will play going forward.

I would like to consider two very common concepts in our modern lives that I find particularly relevant to the unique situation we find ourselves in: urgency and promptness.

The concept of urgency is familiar to everyone and I think it applies perfectly to the current circumstances: “a condition of immediate necessity”, and one that requires attention, right here, right now. It describes times of crisis, such as an accident or a natural disaster, in hospital or administrative contexts, but also feeds through into all aspects of our daily lives, on a smaller scale and a more domestic level. This day-to-day usage of the term has taken away the sense of foreboding that it should perhaps convey. The global climate and energy situation is urgent, just like the efforts required to try and resolve it. These are not empty words. Energy communities are an effective response to this immediate need… and are therefore urgent. The second word I mentioned was: promptness, understood as action taken at the right moment. That moment is now, and we need to act swiftly… urgently!


Green Deal: a prompt response?

The time has come to act. Energy communities represent a tangible current process of change, not some utopian future. In the immediate wake of the coronavirus health emergency, as we already discussed in this article, came a complete upheaval of the economy, perhaps giving the impression of a new set of priorities. But this is not really the case. In fact, considering things more carefully, renewable energy remains at the top of the list of essential actions, as a solution that also forms a foundation to relaunch the economy and a basis for all of the long-awaited European funding connected to the Green Deal.

Take Italy: just a few days ago the “relaunch decree” (Decreto Rilancio) became law, and with it the Superbonus incentive. This represents an important step in relaunching the suffering construction sector, whilst driving improvement in the average energy efficiency of Italian buildings.


Energy Efficiency: a step towards the UN goals

Energy efficiency is an essential and urgent consideration. Directive 2018/2002/EU, amending Directive 2012/27/EU on the basis of the 2015 Paris agreement, is clear: Improving energy efficiency throughout the full energy chain, from energy generation, through to transmission, distribution and finally end-use:

  • will benefit the environment, improve air quality and consequently public health, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions
  • improve energy security by reducing dependence on energy imports from outside the Union
  • cut energy costs for households and companies
  • and lead to increased competitiveness and more jobs throughout the economy, thus improving citizens’ quality of life.

This is even more important in light of the meeting of EU energy ministers in mid-June: preliminary assessments indicate a significant gap between EU targets and actual efficiency levels that current measures implemented by Member States allow. We will have to wait until September to find out more, when all National Energy Plans will be assessed.

Returning to Italy: the Legislative Decree on energy efficiency represents an important step forward for the country. First of all, it confirms the obligation to save energy, extending its duration until December 2030, the deadline to hit European targets. It also strengthens the rights of consumers, acting on metering and invoicing of energy consumption, with a requirement for the use of smart meters that allow remote readings. Another interesting aspect regards training: by next year a national energy-efficiency training programme must be prepared. The aim is to increase awareness amongst all players in the energy world, at whatever level and whatever their role, public and/or private. Here at Regalgrid, we couldn’t agree more: awareness is fundamental.


Energy Communities: which next steps are necessary and urgent?

Renewable energy can do a lot more. Alongside efficiency, it can drive the economic recovery and get the country back on track with United Nations sustainability goals. But to do this it needs to be able to realize its full potential: community-based collective self-consumption. Growth in clean energy, in fact, is still too slow, even though the European average falls within the expected standards, and only incentives like the Italian Superbonus can bring a significant increase.

What is missing, today, for energy communities? At the preparatory level, simplified procedures are certainly required for installation of photovoltaic systems and an increase in investments for all renewables, including storage systems, on the transmission and distribution grid.

Then, there is a lack of promotion of this new energy model and the training necessary to build a culture of energy sharing on a par with that established for energy efficiency.

Regarding energy communities in Italy particularly, one essential element is missing: a regulatory framework outlining the characteristics of these entities in terms of self-consumption incentives and methods for compensation, also defining the dynamics of participation for the various parties, such as individual citizens, business and public administrations.

What else? Get startedTry it out, assess the limits and critical issues, and implement necessary improvements. To start an energy community in Italy, there are few constraints: it must remain within the perimeter of the same low-voltage/medium-voltage transformer substation, it cannot exceed 200 MW total photovoltaic generation and it must observe applicable legislation.


If not now, then when? We must transform this opportunity into prompt action and get prepared

Here at Regalgrid, we are hard at work because the time has come to act. In order to properly launch energy communities, we have decided to take urgent and prompt action, focusing our efforts on entities that are already set up to start or benefit from the approved laws. We want to offer a turnkey service for the building renovation projects governed by the Italian Superbonus, offering an integrated service for businesses and citizens, guiding them in the selectionpurchaseinstallation and optimisation of a photovoltaic system and storage technology, and potentially a heat pump or electric-vehicle charging station. Our initiative is founded on a desire to make people aware of the great opportunities that are now available following recent legislative developments that favour investments in generationstorageself-consumption and optimisation of renewable energy. From a detailed understanding of your consumption profile through to participation in an energy community, you can take an active role in changing the world of energy. This has led us to launch collaborations with architects, design studios, surveyors, construction companies and artisans, heads of home-owners associations, builders and renovators, specialists in the photovoltaic generation chain, heating engineers, energy-service enterprises, banks and, naturally, utility companies, to develop tailored projects for anyone who wishes to take advantage of this opportunity. Independent homescommonholds and condominiumssocial housingartisan’s workshops and commercial units: these all represent active players that can put down the first roots of a multitude of local energy communities, becoming advocates of this new energy model, also involving those who have not or cannot install their own photovoltaic system.

It is in our nature to live the present building the future that we imagine.