The energy utility industry is undergoing significant change. The rapidly increasing use of affordable renewable power generation is triggering new types of consumer and community behaviour towards energy production and consumption.
Energy communities are growing in Europe
Engerati has been writing about the establishment of energy communities which have been created in response to unreliable power supplies and escalating electricity bills. In our recent article Europe’s Community Energy Initiatives Forge Ahead, Dirk Vansintjan, president and co-coordinator of project REscoop 20-20-20, Ecopower cvba, says that over the past two decades, there has been a wave of grass root initiatives by citizens who are taking more control of their energy production and distribution. Most of this activity is taking place across Europe’s Northwest.
An example of this is the island of Texel, home to 14,000 in the north of the Netherlands, which aims to be an energy neutral community by 2020.
Texel’s energy goals
Texel has set itself the following four ambitious energy goals which Capgemini, a global provider of consulting, technology and outsourcing services, is assisting them with:
Reduce energy consumption- When enabling a self-sufficient energy community, one of the first critical success factors is to create energy awareness which should lead to a reduction in energy consumption. One way to achieve this reduction is to measure energy consumption. Each premise in the Texel community has a device which provides detailed data on consumption and self-production.
Generate more renewable energy on Texel to supply the energy demand, together as a community- TexelEnergie should be viewed as a community, in which the volunteering participants invest in more renewable energy sources including wind turbines, solar panels and a biogas generator. Biogas, used mostly as a base load, is used when the wind or sun are not providing sufficient energy. Technological developments could also lead to potential geothermal and tidal energy sourcing in the future. The island is still able to draw energy from the mainland as it is still connected to the national grid.
Use the renewable and locally generated energy when available, whilst maintaining a level of comfort- Next to reduction of energy consumption through feedback on energy use and generating more renewable energy, the next step is using this renewable energy at the moment when energy is available and decrease energy use when energy is not sufficiently available. To get this right, the community is informed on the availability of energy produced by the whole community and can actively plan when to use energy. The availability of the energy will be expressed in a price for each hour, and the device in each premise will provide the energy prices for the next 24 hours. This leads to different energy decisions, for example to choose if you would like your dishwasher to run now, no matter what the price is, or if you would like it to be ready within 12 hours. In the latter case, the Home Energy Management device will run during the cheapest time within that given timeframe.
Smarter use of the existing energy infrastructure- A Community Energy Management System (CEMS) adds intelligence to the grid. The system knows which natural energy source is the most efficient to use at any given time with respect to the forecasted demand. This ensures that renewable energy sources are used in the most efficient manner. The CEMS even influences the load of the participants by encouraging the shifting of the energy consumption over the day from hours where the community has shortage to hours where the community has a surplus of energy. All of this is accomplished by using the existing infrastructure.
Capgemini will be discussing how utilities can use technology to their benefit in our webinar Exploit the Power of New Technologies with Capgemini on 23 April 2015.
Currently, the island is in the pilot phase of the HEMS deployment. They are installing the smart devices to 300 premises in the community to reduce energy consumption through energy awareness and insight. The following phases after this pilot will be:
Rollout and connection of HEMS throughout the whole community
Involve the community by providing feedback based on data from the HEMS
Rollout of the CEMS
These phases are currently underway.
Energy communities create opportunities for the utility
The so-called energy transformation represents a number of opportunities for both utilities and communities to work with. Utilities can help communities get organized so that they can manage their distributed power production, storage, and consumption.
However, these changes within the sector can also pose a potential risk for those utilities that are not engaging and taking advantage of the energy transformation.