Europe’s electricity sector is in the midst of a major transformation, shifting from public monopolies into a liberalised, competitive market. This is especially true for the photovoltaic sector; its current growth trajectory which has been accompanied by impressive drops in installation costs led to new schemes that strongly compete with current electricity from the grid. Self-consumption and energy communities are prime paradigms of how electricity can be produced, managed and stored nowadays. A modern European village The EU-funded project PV-Prosumers4Grid differentiates between three prosumer concepts: individual self-consumption, collective use of a photovoltaic system in one place, and district power models. According to a project study, individual self-consumption is legally possible in all of the eight European countries examined (Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, the Netherlands and Spain). This means that individual solar panel users can produce their own electricity and get paid for the excess electricity they export to the grid. However, excess solar energy can also be shared within the same building or sold to households nearby that purchase electricity from conventional energy suppliers. What’s more, it can be stored in a battery system for later use or for charging an electric vehicle. “We have coined the ‘European village’ term to better reflect the advantages of the energy sharing economy. We aim to show, for example, how shared electricity or shared use of a district battery affect grid capacity and average electricity market price,” notes Georg Lettner of project partner Vienna University of Technology. The project team is defining use cases involving different types of buildings, loads and energy processes. Simulation results are being compared to real-life use cases to assess the impact of a European village on the grid and pricing mechanisms in different European countries. Prosumers and the grid The ability of an energy system to quickly react and adapt to changes in energy supply and demand is an important aspect of self-consumption. Therefore, prosumer presence is not always deemed an advantage for grid management. “Grid operators view prosumers as a challenge especially when peak load is high,” notes project coordinator Luz Alicia Aguilar, from the German Solar Association. “We want to demonstrate that prosumers are not troublemakers for grid operators, but they can add value to the grid instead. Collaboration with grid operators is possible if self- and shared consumption are legally possible in a country.” Eventually, smart solutions should enable prosumers to efficiently manage energy demand during peak usage times. Currently, the regulatory framework does not allow shared use of a photovoltaic system in many countries. “Paying charges for self-consumption constrains collaborative energy consumption in buildings. And even if energy storage is feasible, prosumers risk incurring fees. From a regulatory standpoint, batteries are often treated as additional devices rather than part of self-consumption. Sometimes it is unclear if charges are levied on stored electricity,” explains Aguilar. Analysing existing framework conditions in the individual countries formed a significant basis of project work. But the most important part is to ‘quantify’ the impact of prosumers – how photovoltaic panels, energy storage devices (batteries) and electric vehicles will interact with the energy market.
PV-Prosumers4Grid, prosumer, self-consumption, photovoltaic, grid operators, European village, electric vehicle, energy storage, grid management