Artisans sit at the operational core of Italy’s business fabric and can become advocates of local energy sharing in the context of self-consumption.
Today, the challenges of working as an artisan can be approached in various ways. Whether you run a graphic-design studio or a car wash, whether you are a tattooist, restorer or beauty technician or practice one of the many other professions included in the register of artisan businesses, your challenge also involves an area that perhaps you hadn’t considered until now: energy, and in particular energy communities.
Of course, it may not be the first thing that comes to mind in this period of great upheaval. All artisan businesses, particularly those that need to be open to the public, will certainly be working hard at the moment to align their daily activities with new public health laws, guaranteeing precision without being excessively invasive. Social distancing of employees, personal-protection measures, barriers at tills, reception areas and front-office, and clear entry and exit routes: these have all become essential considerations to keep your business open in the wake of the coronavirus lockdown.
Another challenge shared by all businesses is the economic question: how can we recover lost income for the first quarter of 2020? Even for those that continued working during the quarantine, with the exception of the health sector, profits were hugely affected by the unrelenting domino effect that was seen throughout all markets. In some cases, businesses are unable to sell and workers are not being paid. Even more so than before. And this is a difficult problem to solve, yet nothing is impossible. Identifying the most appropriate strategy requires delicate balancing of income and outgoings. This balance is threatened by unforgiving fixed costs.
But why is this relevant here? Because energy is a fixed cost, even though there is a variable component depending on the type of business. Artisan enterprise, which represents the heart of Italy’s business fabric, thus takes on a central role in the energy revolution. How? The answer is clear: it’s in the title.
But let’s go step by step.
Why should artisans use solar power?
The real question we should ask is “why not?” The benefits can be seen across the board, from economic savings through to a positive environmental contribution.
Reducing environmental impacts
The most evident factor is a reduction in the environmental impacts of your business, allowing you to contribute to the achievement of national targets for renewable energy consumption, setting an example for other companies in your area and also for your employees and customers. The decision to switch to renewables is increasingly recognised for its positive effect on awareness of environmental issues, leading to a return in the form of positive image for your business.
State incentives for SMEs
Another important and evident factor is related to economic savings: solar power is first and foremost cost-effective thanks to incentives for businesses. Current legislation strongly supports installation of photovoltaic systems, promoting recovery and a more sustainable approach to consumption in line with the National Energy and Climate Plan (PNIEC) and the European Clean Energy Package.
As we have mentioned, energy is a fixed cost for businesses: switching to solar power means producing the energy you consume, achieving 60% self-consumption with the support of storage systems. This allows you to cut your bill through a significant reduction in energy costs. This advantage is the most immediate and the most visible, although initially it will simply offset the cost of the system.
Exploiting excess energy
Next, we have to consider that energy that is not consumed is used for services by the national operator, via tariffs paying producers for energy fed back into the national grid. However, in terms of energy that is not instantaneously self-consumed, there is another solution available to all artisans connected to the low-voltage grid, one which we have been championing as it represents the future of the energy sector: energy communities.
Why should artisans join energy communities?
Because energy communities are the emblem of true and complete sustainability from an environmental, social and economic perspective, offering benefits for all parties involved. In other words, being a member of an energy community, along with residential users and other commercial users, amplifies the benefits described above. Participation in a community through use of a SNOCU also provides a detailed picture of your consumption and habits (your energy profile) which is balanced against those of other members by Regalgrid’s algorithm. In the specific case of artisans, acting as producers, consumers and storers of clean energy within an energy community (a figure we refer to as a proconstomer) means taking on a very comprehensive role that supports the balance of the community. In any case, this also offers the possibility of reducing fixed costs for energy and further cutting your bill, as well as reducing waste associated with the transport of energy, keeping energy flows within a local-grid range.
In addition, this new form of collective and distributed self-consumption represents a decentralised energy model that also supports interconnected grid users in the event of energy crises.
Certainly, the advantages for an artisan are generally very similar to those for domestic users but there is one significant difference. Artisans act as hubs for interconnections within society, having vast networks of contacts and they are one of the categories that people look to for guidance and advice. Artisans therefore have the capacity to become advocates of the energy revolution simply by raising awareness of the benefits that they achieve thanks to clean energy shared through energy communities. The shared, digital energy revolution is here: don’t shout it from the rooftops, but from the doorway of your workshop!
By definition, an artisan is a person with plenty of know-how, and a practical approach that often gets to the core of an issue ahead of others. In fact, artisans are one of the first categories taking steps to understand and use the tools and incentives on offer. In the current energy scenario, there really are many opportunities, certainly more than ever before. Furthermore, artisans generally have a very clearly defined operational centre, with well-recognised know-how and relationships that are strongly rooted and systematically controlled. For artisans, the local community is a very real and tangible concept. All of this makes artisans true protagonists in the energy-community era. Energy Communities not only mean supporting the environment, greater use of renewables and lower CO2 emissions, but harnessing the component parts of a local community to optimise energy flows thanks to Regalgrid algorithms and generating greater savings and value for all involved. An artisan with a rooftop available on his or her workshop or warehouse can become the hub of a new energy community and provide energy in excess of individual self-consumption to others nearby: return on investment improves significantly once it is based on collective self-consumption!