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Putting citizens in control of the energy transition

Open-source tools can help local energy communities in Europe to lower their overall energy consumption and make full use of renewable energy sources whenever these are available.

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Energy communities are civil society organisations involved in renewable energy projects. Initiatives might include setting up solar panels on the rooftop of a school, or villagers co-investing in wind turbines. Participation is open and voluntary, and members are typically citizens, local authorities and/or SMEs. In fact, an estimated 98 million Europeans are expected to join an energy community by 2050. “The aim of the EU-funded REScoopVPP project was to support the growth and sustainability of these organisations through promoting flexibility,” explains project member Roland Tual from in Belgium. “This means giving organisations the ability to shift the time of consumption to better match energy resources such as wind and solar, and to better support system operators to maintain the stability of the grid.” Sun and wind are variable, and electricity cannot be easily stored at large scale. This is why the ability to react in real time to the availability of energy is so critical.

Giving energy communities more control

To achieve this, the project, which was coordinated by Snap! Solutions in Portugal, worked closely with a number of energy cooperatives. The aim was to find ways of enabling end users to better forecast consumption and production, and to anticipate any needed shift in demand. “We were lucky that we had cooperatives willing to work together on this,” says Tual. EnergieID in Belgium for example has a monitoring platform that is already in use, while Carbon Co-op in the United Kingdom came with their PowerShaper. This off-the-shelf hardware uses open-source software to control domestic appliances. Finally, Enercoop (website in French) in France brought their ongoing work on forecasting algorithms for both production and consumption. The project team next worked to develop an open-source platform based on such existing technologies, which could be used on different smart meters at home. A key aim was to scale up the solution to be able to handle hundreds of different services, and still be user-friendly for cooperatives.

Learning from these citizen initiatives

The project developed the COFYbox, an energy management system that enables users to flexibly and in real time control high-load devices such as electric vehicle charge points, heat pumps and solar installations. The solution, which is fully open-source, was piloted by cooperative members in Belgium, Germany, Spain, France and the United Kingdom. “We were able to show that these tools can help users to manage their data close to real time,” adds Tual. “It was very exciting to learn from all these citizen initiatives.” The project also developed a set of community tools, designed to support renewable energy cooperatives in organising themselves as aggregators and retailers of renewable energy.

Boosting the role of energy communities

The success of the project has underlined the role that grassroots energy communities can play in Europe’s energy transition, through implementing IT innovations that facilitate energy efficiencies and better exploit renewable energy sources. “Our open-source software can hopefully kick-start a bigger discussion at the EU level on how the benefits of EU funds can be shared at the local level,” says Tual. “That’s the beauty of EU collaborations. We think that energy communities, as social economy actors, have not yet demonstrated all they can do.”


REScoopVPP, energy, renewable, solar, heat pumps, electric vehicle

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