Energy communities, also called smart communities or digital energy communities, are the heart of innovation in the energy sector, as well as the physiological evolution for a country like Italy, which has proven to be proactive in energy development.
Smart communities represent a change of paradigm and, if we want, of mentality, in which the “digitization of everything” must be embraced, welcomed and understood. The world of energy is no exception and the Italian market has the potential to be at the forefront in this sector. For this Regalgrid has been working for years on the development of the fundamental technology to enable this great innovation of the energy communities. And now that the legislation opens the doors to collective and shared self-consumption, it is more than ready to support this epochal change.
Italy is smart
With smart meters anticipated by at least a decade compared to the rest of the world, our country has opened up to the production of renewable energy, welcoming all the requests of the European Union. Now, with the signing of the Milleproroghe Decree still fresh, at the beginning of March 2020, it can only talk about smart communities, as a synonym for energy communities, to promote them as a sustainable energy model.
We have already clarified what an energy community is: a group of people who do energy sharing thanks to a smart grid. The fundamental characteristics of such a community are the peer to peer or many-to-many relationship among the community members and the common desire to self-consume and share energy from locally available renewable sources.
The beauty of this innovation is its DNA, made of 360 ° sustainability: environmental, economic and social. Let’s see how.
What the Italian legislation on energy communities says
The Milleproroghe Decree concretizes in Italy some of the indications of the European Directive “Renewable Energy Directive” (RED II), precisely those in Article 42bis, which legally defines energy communities. The Italian Decree establishes the possibility of creating communities that exchange energy for the purpose of collective self-consumption, both instantaneous and deferred.
The goal of this self-consumption is not profit, but the benefit of all at an economic, social and environmental level. This underlines the importance of the sense of community, in which everyone does their part for the good of all which also coincides with the advantage of the individual. The income from the sale of energy must therefore not be the primary source of income. The sense of community eliminates greed.
Anyone who consumes energy can participate in these communities, regardless of whether they own a photovoltaic system, a storage system or are a simple supporter of clean energy. The two forms of aggregation for collective self-consumption are the energy communities (many-to-many) and groups of self-consumers who live in the same building or condominium (one-to-many). Here accessibility introduces equity.
Agreements for the sale of energy are bound by private contracts: maturity brings honesty and respect to the table.
The exchange of energy must take place through the existing distribution network: the utility renews its usefulness to consumers.
At the moment, the energy communities in Italy can only be established downstream of the same MV / LV transformer substation, for single plants with power lower than 100kW and overall not exceeding 200KW, activated after 1 March 2020, date of entry into force of the Law converting the Decree. In the future, however, this model will expand, with greater chances for everyone to be part of this energy revolution. In any case, this running-in period in the low voltage grid will allow people outside the sector, pure and final consumers of energy, to appreciate the benefit of this new paradigm. For the public administration and the Operator it will instead be a test period to evaluate its functioning and subsequent implementation.
A project with limits, but far-sighted, a symbol of the virtuous intertwining of energy and technology, between innovation and vision.
Future scenarios of energy communities in Italy
To look to the future we must first look to the past. Before the entry into force of the Milleproroghe Decree, there were cases of local avant-gardes in the field of energy communities, such as the case of the Piedmont region, the first to adopt a law on the subject, the Regional Law n.12 of 03.08. .2018 “Promotion of the institution of energy communities”.
This law gave the mandate to explore what possibilities could arise for people, organizations and companies to exchange self-produced energy with renewable sources, constituting an energy community. The following year the call for applications came out. The conditions for being considered suitable concerned the number of subjects involved, the production and consumption volume of the group. Piedmont was waiting for nothing more than a national law to better regulate the dimension of the energy communities.
Similarly, the Sardinia region has also begun to actively promote the creation of energy aggregations and communities through various calls, including by encouraging research and experimental development of new services in the smart grid sector.
These are just a few examples to demonstrate the virtuous and proactive thrust that thrills in our country for energy communities. Regalgrid is the first supporter of new projects that are starting in various areas of Italy: from residential energy communities to smart condominiums, from private microgrids to those serving the Public Administration and many other forms of membership. And this is possible thanks to the patented Digital Energy management platform which, thanks to the SNOCU Regalgrid, the gateways that enable any type of system required by Italian legislation to create a network for sharing energy with other users, monitor the operation of the smart grid and, thanks to proprietary algorithms, analyze and process the data in real time to then return it to community members and its administrators.
The preview of the data from the Politecnico di Milano Energy & Strategy Group Report, which will be presented in July 2020, is encouraging.
Smart communities would bring benefits not only to the members involved, but also to the electricity distribution system, thanks to the contribution to the innovation of the infrastructure, reduction of management costs which could be between 10 and 30% per year compared to the expenses incurred today : actual savings would range between 300 million and one billion euros per year.
Energy communities also contain the potential of reducing energy dependence on foreign countries by 1/6, for a value of about 10 billion euros per year. Not to mention that the development of national production chains for the devices needed to enable communities would open up a market worth between 10 and 40 billion euros by 2030.
The numbers of the current communities are very low and are mostly configured as experimental situations. But in the next 10 years, a scenario of between 25,000 and 100,000 energy communities is conceivable, which would produce a market estimated between 50 and 160 billion euros.
In the more cautious scenario, The European House Ambrosetti estimates a reduction in CO2 emissions of 3.6 million tons of oil.
Regalgrid has believed in energy communities, or smart communities, if you prefer, since 2012, long before they were called by this name. In fact, our corporate mission and our vision have been extremely determined and oriented precisely to the service and support of the birth and development of these advantageous forms of community and aggregation and the meaning of our name testifies to this. REGALGRID®, in addition to being a registered international trademark, is the acronym in English for Renewable Energies Generated and Accumulated in a Local GRID, which means Renewable Energy Generated and Accumulated in a Local Network.
We have decided to enclose in one word exactly what an Energy Community wants to achieve for its components. With this simple play on words we have anticipated concepts that today are revealed to everyone as necessary and beneficial.
But realizing what this acronym stands for was anything but simple. To achieve the result of managing one-to-many and many-to-many systems, Regalgrid has been committed to developing and testing for years a number of extremely varied and varied management solutions, algorithms and protocols, first in the laboratory and then in the field with real users, which led to comparable but diversified implementation schemes.
We are committed to being able to make very different hardware communicate with each other, eliminating the problem of constraints or limitations of specific products or brands of inverters, photovoltaic panels or batteries, to orchestrate the different devices with dynamic and scalable activation modes over time, with high operational flexibility. This allows the energy community to be composed simultaneously of users of pure energy consumption (consumer), others who produce energy (prosumer) and others who are able to accumulate energy (storer), others who perform all these actions (proconstomer). The variable and parameterized objective functions of Regalgrid® allow you to fulfill all the energy needs of individual users with different needs in real time, always maximizing individual and collective self-consumption.