Solar energy self-consumption and self-sufficiency

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes, 4 seconds

If true self-sufficiency is possible by creating an energy community, i.e. a network of connections that benefits all involved, informed self-consumption is the key to access this type of independence from the national grid.

Self-consumption and energy self-sufficiency are two concepts that together form the basis of an energy community. In fact, that which is lacking with individual self-consumption in order to reach energy independence can be provided by collective self-consumption, achieved by sharing energy between equals.

Self-consumption is the consumption of energy produced by your own photovoltaic system and represents the starting point for energy self-sufficiency. The latter is a synonym of energy independence and refers to autonomy from the national electricity grid and the energy that it supplies, still currently generated primarily from non-renewable sources.

However, if we look closely at all the different aspects of self-consumption, we realise that in certain settings, it may in itself become synonymous with energy self-sufficiency. The three aspects of self-consumption are:

  • Instantaneous self-consumption
  • Deferred self-consumption
  • Collective self-consumption

To reach complete energy self-sufficiency, however, a step-by-step approach is required. First of all adopting a more responsible approach to energy consumption. Here are some practical tips to consider straight away in order to maximise energy self-consumption and reduce waste.


#1 Monitoring your consumption is the key to energy self-sufficiency

Information feeds understanding: monitoring and analysis of energy-consumption data represent the first step towards more responsible and sustainable actions. How?

Firstly, you can identify habits and consumption peaks for calculation and scheduling of energy production.

Secondly, monitoring allows you to identify wastage: paying attention to domestic appliances that use a lot of power because they are out of date, and to excessive residual consumption of all household appliances while they are on stand-by.


#2 Avoiding wastage is essential for independence

Avoiding careless consumption and concentration within the same periods of the day demonstrates a sense of responsibility.

The first step is to eliminate obvious wastage:

  • Lights on with no reason
  • Power and standby lights on appliances
  • Fridges set to excessively low temperatures
  • Boilers on with no reason
  • Thermostats set to excessively high temperatures
  • Air conditioners at freezing temperatures

Regarding the last three points, remember that 20°C is more than sufficient for a good level of comfort in the home.

Next, it is necessary to adopt new habits on the basis of monitoring data: remove plugs when appliances are not in use (or install multi-way socket adapters with a power switch), set certain devices that remain in stand-by to power down automatically or programme start-up of heating at an appropriate time to reach the desired temperature at the right time of day.


#3 Actions supporting energy efficiency

At the same time, solutions can be adopted to support energy savings. Firstly, there are those of a more structural nature, if you are having work done in the home or are able to make some improvements:

  • Check and improve thermal insulation around the home.
  • Install large windows to make the most of the natural light.
  • Choose windows with thermal or insulating glass.
  • If you need to replace an appliance, purchase smart models with low energy consumption.

There are also steps than can be taken immediately:

  • If all of your domestic appliances are in good condition, you can install a Regalgrid® SNOCU unit to monitor them and view your consumption in real time.
  • Close shutters and balconies at nightfall to keep in heat.
  • Do not leave windows and doors open if you have the heating switched on. This may seem obvious, but it can happen, particularly if you have a pet and a garden. If you do, it is best to have a dog door fitted or leave a tilting window open for your cat, preferably in the room which is heated the least.

#4 Correct sizing of photovoltaic system and storage units permits independence

To achieve energy self-sufficiency more easily, you need to have a photovoltaic system and a storage unit of the right dimensions for your requirements, within your available budget. This is why the monitoring data mentioned above is so essential.

It certainly isn’t possible to buy a storage system with the total capacity required for your household. Currently, this would require too great a cost and would take up too much space. However, with an appropriately sized storage unit for your consumption, you could reduce bills by up to 65-70%.


#5 Self-consumption increases with energy self-sufficiency

To achieve energy independence, we have mentioned that it is necessary to be a member of a digital energy community.

Currently, in the majority of cases energy independence is approached with installation of a photovoltaic system (making you a prosumer) and a storage system (making you a proconstomer, i.e. a prosumer with a storage system). In such cases, your bill can be greatly reduced. Once you have offset the cost of the system, the only amount you have to pay is for energy not covered by instantaneous and deferred self-consumption. These two approaches can be paired with collective self-consumption, which provides for the remainder of your energy demand, allowing total energy self-sufficiency, abandoning the net-metering system.

Meanwhile, if you are a member of the community solely as a consumer, you can contribute to collective self-consumption by purchasing all or a portion of the renewable energy generated by other members who are prosumers or stored by members with storage systems (storers). The advantage here will be lower-priced energy.

In an ideal world, the perfect solution would be to immediately consume all energy produced by your system: location of production and consumption correspond, eliminating wastage during the transport and storage phases. However, energy exchange in a smart community allows you to achieve the same result overall: also consuming energy produced by others immediately, with minimal transport distances.


#6 Generating heat using photovoltaic power contributes to independence from traditional sources

To reach a new level of energy independence, you can connect the photovoltaic system to a latest-generation heat pump, creating a hybrid solution that allows heating and cooling of your home and savings on your gas bill.

Energy self-sufficiency is therefore the new approach to energy consumption. The essential ingredients are an awareness that leads to a new “quality” of consumption and the decision to play a part in the true energy revolution offered by smart grids and digital energy communities.


When is the best time to switch on the washing machine in your home?

This may seem like an obvious question, but in reality the answer is not so simple and requires a certain amount of knowledge and awareness. In fact, this simple question could have various answers depending on whether you are a simple consumer or a prosumer and whether you have a storage system or are a member of an Energy Community.

Certainly, if you are a Regalgrid user, you have nothing to worry about: your SNOCU unit gives you access to our algorithms that optimise all of your energy demands and surpluses.

Imagine a situation where different users have different levels of consumption or generation, with inverters from different manufacturers and perhaps with a storage system here and there. These users, with such different profiles, may have energy demands or surpluses that coincide or that are distributed very differently. Clearly, in this situation there are many different languages and logics at play and very complex operations and calculations are required.

But Regalgrid offers an efficient solution: making everything transparent and simplifying this very difficult task, maximising individual and collective self-consumption in every instant.