Self-consumption of energy is a high motivation for many homeowners to invest in renewable energy – enabling self-sufficiency and reducing energy bills are both viewed as attractive offers. However, legislative, economic and technical barriers remain, and public authorities can play a key role in helping to overcome them. 

The ENERSELVES project, co-ordinated by the Extremadura Energy Agency (AGENEX), has explored the issues related to self-consumption, and learning from interregional exchange, the project partners have successfully improved their regional policy frameworks to enable self-consumption and provide model examples for replication across Europe.

Identifying successful approaches

As a starting point, ENERSELVES identified many good practices of existing self-consumption examples which can act as inspiration for other regions, comprised of examples with well proven technologies, some of which have been ambitious in their integration of numerous technologies.

Practices have demonstrated the possibility for self-consumption in public buildings, such as solar photovoltaics for the council building of Ta’ Sannat and Ministry for Gozo (Malta) and  hospitals in Sardinia (Italy) and district heating for public buildings in Hällaryd (Sweden); business premises including solar PV for a Sardinian dairy farm and a biomass and solar heating in a spa in Extremadura (Spain); and in residential buildings, including retirement homes in Opatów (Poland) and Olsgården (Sweden), and a condominium in Kristianstad (also Sweden).

As well as proven technologies, experimental approaches have been identified, including the Concentrated Solar Power and Concentrated Solar PV plant with experimental thermal and electrochemical energy storage and trial installation of decentralised energy into social housing, both in Sardinia.

The practices demonstrate the high potential of decentralised renewable self-consumption, both for reducing carbon emissions and for creating new business opportunities and creating new, green regional jobs.

Lessons learned from interregional events

As well as identifying good practices, the ENERSELVES partners engage in knowledge transfer through the organisation of seven interregional events. The exchanges, outlined in event reports, identified a number of key lessons for regions looking to support energy self-consumption;

  • A number of technologies are suitable for self-consumption, including solar PV (electricity), solar thermal (hot water and electricity) and geothermal (heating, ventilation and air conditioning);
  • An enabling framework is essential. The EU’s Renewable Energy Directive and Energy Market Directive recasts have given impetus to national governments to reform their own frameworks and remove barriers to grid integration, such as the Spanish law 244/2019 which has introduced a new definition of self-consumption and simplified compensation mechanism;
  • A good starting point for regions looking to support self-consumption is to use public buildings as a trial and demonstration – these installations can be inspirational for inhabitants, can help policy-makers to understand difficulties related to installation and improve policy, and stimulate market development amongst renewable energy technology providers and installers;
  • As well as generation technologies, control and monitoring technologies need to be explored and understood, such as SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) and Facility Management systems. SCADA can monitor multiple buildings under common ownership;
  • Further communication is needed to emphasise the competitiveness and strong performance of decentralised energy solutions which are often viewed (inaccurately) as expensive and ineffective;
  • Storage remains a key challenge for energy self-generation. Electric vehicles will play a part in this, acting as storage for excess electricity generation through vehicle-to-grid (V2G) connectivity;
  • The 'Nearly Zero Energy Building' (nZEB) concept should be embraced, combining energy self-consumption with energy efficiency and passive features.

Enacting regional policy improvements

In Spain, ENERSELVES project has coincided with a national discussion on the national self-consumption regulation. Whilst countries such as Germany and Sweden have taken a lead in self-consumption, sun-rich Spain had lagged behind, with relatively low awareness of the available technologies and insufficient policy support.

Extremadura launched a call to fund new renewable energy installations in buildings, with a second call to be launched soon, and as a result of the project, AGENEX was able to secure a commitment from the regional government to include self-consumption technologies in public buildings to reduce carbon emissions, save money and demonstrate the potentials of self-consumption to local citizens.

A new roundtable initiative and agreement was launched to bring stakeholders together – AGENEX, the regional government, regional energy cluster, and energy and consumer associations – to ensure that everyone has a good awareness of self-consumption and its benefits.

“The interregional co-operation that weas enabled by ENERSELVES has been key to boosting self-consumption in Extremadura, spreading its benefits and supporting the democratisation of the energy system” said Cosme Segador Vegas, Managing Director of AGENEX. “

Other partners are also focusing on the installation of self-consumption technologies on public buildings, which can act as demonstration sites:

  • A new project is being implemented in the provinces of Skåne and Blekinge (Sweden), funded under the Regional Operational Programme, to bring stakeholders together to raise awareness of the importance of energy efficiency in buildings and create a network of public and private actors to enable future co-operation for self-consumption in public buildings;
  • Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship (Poland) has renegotiated its Regional Operational Programme with the European Commission to transfer ERDF funding to the low-carbon economy priority, drawing from lessons learnt in the ENERSELVES project to renovate public buildings;
  • In Lazio (Italy), the region has used ERDF funding under its Regional Operational Programme to renovate two public buildings; a social housing block and an exhibition and conference hall. The aim is to make both into nZEBs and test their impact through ex-ante and ex-post assessments, interventions with more ambitious targets than seen before the ENERSELVES project. 

For more information see the ENERSELVES website or the Policy Learning Platform Policy Brief on Renewable Energy Self-Consumption.

Image credit: Image by Colin Behrens from Pixabay