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Energy communities: Shared local electricity production

White paper • 21.05 2024

Increasingly, businesses are producing some of their own electricity. Some have invested in storage solutions. Others are now engaging in projects to share this energy with neighboring businesses or local entities. 

An energy community is a legal entity that allows citizens, local institutions, or companies to collaborate in managing energy services. The energy produced within the community can be shared, exchanged, or sold. 

Energy CommunityStill Not Very Encouraging Legislation… 

The possibility of participating in an energy community obviously depends on the location of the business, the opportunity to share energy with partners of different and complementary profiles and needs, but is also dependent on local regulations in force. 

Europe has adopted directives aimed at accelerating the energy transition by decentralizing electricity production and promoting energy sharing. However, not all countries or regions legislate at the same pace or according to the same principles. 

«Unfortunately, we remain in a model with large production units where storage technologies and decentralization are not promoted, and where the complexity of regulations works against motivation» laments Patrick Hendrick, a professor at the ULB Polytechnic School. 

A Multitude of Possibilities 

Energy communities are currently not widespread but could offer a multitude of innovative solutions. They can use various energy sources, including, of course, renewables like solar, wind, and hydroelectric power. 

For example, a company with a large roof could install more photovoltaic panels than it needs, benefiting neighboring businesses that don’t have this opportunity. Electric vehicles could even be used as mobile batteries, allowing electricity produced at the workplace during the day to be used at employees’ homes in the evening. 

Relieving the Grid by Avoiding Peak Loads 

Unfortunately, we cannot currently count on a significant drop in battery prices due to the scarcity of lithium. In the future, we will probably use end-of-life electric vehicle batteries as domestic batteries, and hydrogen batteries should also develop. Meanwhile, the most cost-effective strategy is to use what is produced at the right time to avoid peak loads, which determine the price of electricity. 

«With energy communities, we could reduce the impact of supply and demand and allow for price smoothing» explains Marc Van Goidsenhoven, Sales Manager at CE+T.

The interest for companies in participating in an energy community project is therefore multifaceted, being financial, social, and environmental:

«The energy community should not be seen as an end in itself, but as a way to promote short distribution channels,» concludes Damien Ernst, a researcher at the Faculty of Applied Sciences at ULiège.

Advantages of an Energy Community 

  • Pool investment costs 
  • Reduce contributors’ energy bills 
  • Increase individual autonomy 
  • Protection against potential grid outages 
  • Offer collaboration opportunities 
  • Be environmentally conscious 
  • Relieve the grid
  • Improve image in terms of sustainability and social responsibility
  • Comply with European carbon footprint regulations

Illustrating with a Real-Life Case Study 

A cutting-edge DC microgrid initiative in Wallonia, Belgium, is revolutionizing energy dynamics by interconnecting multiple companies within an industrial ecosystem. Collaborating with Klinkenberg, UCLouvain, and HEPL, CE+T introduces a transformative solution: the Stabiliti multidirectional converter. This innovative technology, equipped with two DC ports and an AC interface, serves as the linchpin in this visionary energy network. By seamlessly interconnecting companies within the microgrid, Stabiliti empowers businesses not just to consume but to efficiently produce and share energy resources. This strategic integration stands as a testament to CE+T’s commitment to revolutionizing energy landscapes, fostering collaboration, and driving sustainable energy practices among industrial entities. 

Thought of the Month: 

«Energy communities could theoretically be self-sufficient and solve some grid sizing problems since what is produced is consumed and stored on-site. Unfortunately, energy distributors are not very supportive of these initiatives as they hinder the consumption of the electricity they sell» regrets Olivier Bomboir, CCO of CE+T.

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