Bringing energy communities to the digital era

09-12-2020

Because thinking small doesn’t rule out thinking big: energy communities also need the right digital tools to monitor their renewable assets. Especially when managing a complex portfolio.

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Picture of one of Ecopower’s rooftop PV assets connected to SynaptiQ.

What is the role of (digital) energy communities in the future Belgian and European energy systems? What governance structures are effective? Which partnerships are necessary? And which digital tools can support these? By combining a strong track record in engineering, monitoring and control, with expertise on the legal and organisational aspects of energy communities, 3E offers tangible solutions for energy communities. Zoom in on Ecopower, a cooperative that was searching for a flexible asset management platform.

Managing complex portfolios

Ecopower is an example of a pioneering energy co-op that enables citizens to take energy matters in their own hands. Founded in 1991, the organization brings together citizens to invest in renewable energy projects in Flanders. All of its 60,000 shareholders participate directly in the renewable energy projects (wind, PV and some small-scale hydro), meaning that they share the incurred costs and generated profits.

Digitalisation and streamlining business processes are key to manage complex portfolios of distributed assets,”
explains Bram Leys, project-engineer PV at Ecopower. “We were looking for a way to optimize operations and communicate effectively to our internal and external stakeholders about our photovoltaic investments. Because of its unique built-in domain knowledge we chose for 3E’s monitoring platform SynaptiQ to manage our portfolio of renewable energy sources.”

By providing real-time analytics, SynaptiQ helps Ecopower increase the electricity generated by its renewable portfolio, lower maintenance costs and create more value for its cooperants. Over the past months, 3E has integrated +90 rooftop PV projects of Ecopower in SynaptiQ.

Steven Moens, Sales Manager SynaptiQ Benelux at 3E, says: “We are proud to team up on Ecopower’s sustainability vision. Over a period of 2 months our teams have integrated 91 solar roofs on schools, sport centres and municipal buildings in SynaptiQ. We look forward to continuing our collaboration with Ecopower and shaping the transition towards a more democratic Belgian power system.”

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Picture from Ecopower.

New European framework for the energy communities

More and more citizens are producing renewable electricity for their own use. They are prosumers: they produce their own electricity, for example by having solar panels on their roof, to meet their own demand. When the local production is insufficient, they consume electricity from the grid.

As explained in an earlier post entitled ‘Energy communities: #StrongerTogether’, the European Commission recently introduced the concept of ‘energy communities’ to facilitate different forms of local energy ownership. Energy communities allow households, SMEs, municipalities, … to team up and offer a range of renewable energy services. Going beyond individual households, energy communities support the integration of renewable energy by anchoring projects locally, unlocking project opportunities and creating new business cases. In addition, they have the potential to reduce grid usage and increase energy autonomy at community level by matching local demand with local production.

The types of collective actions on energy framed by the new EU definitions are only some of the possible ways that citizens can participate in energy activities. Energy cooperatives have been existing since the ‘80s and several EU member states already have legal frameworks for community participation. The EU directives support existing initiatives by providing a harmonised framework that explicitly allows their active participation in the EU’s energy system.

Teaming up with the right partner

By combining its strong track record in engineering, monitoring and control, with expertise on the legal and organisational aspects of community energy, 3E offers tangible solutions that support energy communities to enter the digital era. For more information about the different advisory or technology services we can provide to energy communities, please get in touch with us through the contact form below!