It’s time for Community Energy
A major market and social trend is emerging. Community Energy is evolving into a significant driver for change in the energy industry. What are the implications for traditional and new energy players?
Why now? What's changed?
At the beginning of the 21st century, a multitude of cities set about building sustainable communities, but many stalled. Now, aspirations for greener communities are seeing a revival - not just in dense, urban areas, but also rural villages, campuses, and business parks.
Technologies in the areas of energy efficiency, energy conservation, and energy substitution empower the population at large to reduce its carbon footprint.
Economic benefit - such as job creation and deriving value that can be consumed directly by the community - is a primary objective. Technology advancements make it possible.
Awareness of the dangers of climate change, a growing distrust of public institutions, the “buy local” trend, and the sharing economy are all prompting citizens to push the energy agenda.
Is Community Energy economically viable?
Our modelling suggests that Community Energy can have significant benefits—financial amongst others.
Case studies: How we're helping our customers integrate renewables
A primary objective is economic benefit
Affordable, clean energy for all is the basic economic value to be gained. Also important is the opportunity to generate jobs for the community, and keep any advantages related to the success of the program for the community’s benefit.
Ease, integration, and scale matter
Communities want a holistic, integrated view that brings together multiple resources - electricity, gas and water, plus also heat and electric vehicles - for the benefit of the community. Today, communities believe that such an integrated view is not available.
Communities have to engage all stakeholders
Communities need to involve, inform and motivate residents, business owners, state or municipal administrators, utilities, technology partners, financial institutions, and regulators, amongst others, if they are to build consensus that can be acted upon.
Communities are becoming energy-savvy, but not experts
A lack of technology and business knowledge within communities has held them back, but competence is growing. Some communities are attracting experienced professionals who are working to define and realize a tailored energy strategy.
Communities are hampered by energy regulation
Regulation and the volatility of regulatory decisions is a major impediment for Community Energy programs. Many communities feel overwhelmed by the abundance of choices and ill-equipped to navigate this unknown territory.
Information is essential to progress
Information enables a better understanding of the energy system, and its economic value. This increases transparency, or can be used to promote the concept. Continuous analysis of data helps identify areas for improvement and optimize operational efficiency.
Principles for success
Find out what community groups need to prioritize on their to-do lists.
Gather and nurture a strong coalition of the willing
- Think broad, even unconventional, regarding stakeholders.
- Understand what motivates stakeholders. Ensure there is a clear value story in the targeted solution for each one, and tie this – at least partly – to the creation of clear benefits.
- Communicate to sustain engagement.
- Renew contributors to keep the initiative bright.
Establish open exchange and joint ideation as a principle of the program
- The outcome is based on a sharing concept – the process to launch and maintain should be also.
- Don’t try to become the expert; seek out subject matter experts, there are more and more who are ready to contribute.
- Connect with other Community Energy initiatives, particularly those in the same (regulatory) market.
- Push on all actors to encourage regulators to recognize and react to Community Energy as a trend. Guidelines on how to manage local markets (at a low voltage level) will not hurt the model and will enable pilots and trials that will lead the way forward.
Leverage information as a core asset
- Ideally, consolidate, manage and share information and the resulting insights on one platform.
- Pursue a software-first approach to avoid unnecessary hardware investments.
- Utilize information to showcase system performance and value creation for the community.
- Adopt a modular approach to software adoption, starting small and scaling the solution according to uptake and evolving needs.
Accept no compromise, but be realistic
- Aim for a realistic level of technological feasibility and economic viability.
- Think about practical, as well as mandatory ways to track progress.
- Do not compromise on goals unless it would mean the end of the initiative
Solutions and future concepts
Find out what we are working on in the Community Energy space, and what solutions are already out there.
OMNETRIC Prosumer Energy
Our in-progress solution to measure, monitor and manage power generation and consumption community-wide:
Changing consumer behaviour with data
A solution designed to:
- Create awareness about energy consumption, generate transparency, and influence behavior.
- Drive increased customer interactions and improve customer satisfaction and retention.
- Establish a foundation for additional energy-related initiatives such as demand-response programs.
- Provide insight upon which new behavior-based pricing schemes can be modeled.
Optimizing control of distributed energy  affordably with microgrid in the cloud
A solution designed to:
- Adapt to existing infrastructure or usage scenarios, thanks to open standards.
- Reduce the upfront investment of developing a microgrid through cloud delivery, thereby lowering the financial barrier to getting started.
- Enable a microgrid deployment with less know-how than a traditional solution, since it is hosted, managed and maintained by the provider.
Balancing the grid for more efficient supply- and demand-side management
A solution designed to:
- Create consumer awareness – commercial and residential – for energy management.
- Provide the opportunity to participate in load-shifting programs, for example through controlling heating, ventilation, and air conditioning units, water heaters, smart thermostats, and irrigation switches to lower costs.
- Increase grid stability and reliability in both the transmission and distribution networks while providing cost savings through peak load shaving.
- Integrate and simplify the management of distributed energy resources like solar photovoltaic, wind farms, storage facilities or electric vehicles.
- Aggregate different programs and management tools into one, easy to use, software platform.
Monitoring energy consumption real-time
A solution designed to:
- Enable an operator to optimize and reduce energy consumption in a defined area thanks to an intelligent platform with a highly visual and intuitive interface.
- Work with existing infrastructure and data.
- Adapt to diverse usage scenarios and levels of detail.
- Provide the flexibility to integrate control and management modules such as demand-response, workforce management and outage management.
Opportunities for utilities
Explore what role utilities can assume into the Community Energy scenario.
Even if the community only needs a limited technical solution that may prevent the utility from getting commercially involved, the utility supports the community as it evaluates different solutions.
By remaining part of the team, the utility is on hand to provide more sophisticated support, as the community’s needs evolve.
Community Energy service provider
The utility collaborates with communities to define a solution, then develops and delivers it. The utility could also work as a business partner: running; maintaining; and optimizing the solution.
This role presents utilities with diverse opportunities for economic growth but potentially requires intensive ongoing collaboration.
Community Energy platform provider
With a clear business case, ongoing funding, and a commitment to Community Energy, the utility assumes the role of optimizing the management of energy generated, stored and shared by the community.
It offers a range of potential solutions to respond to “classic” usage scenarios, likely delivered as a service.