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Barriers to flexibility services by energy communities

Takeways from a 3-year experience

The REScoopVPP started in June 2021 and is now coming to and end. The project has given 7 cooperatives a unique opportunity to set up and experiment different demand-side flexibility services mostly in the domestic sector. This project has provided many insights regarding the current limitations of the residential demand-side sector.

Interoperability, a key for community services

In order to be able to work cross-brand and cross devices, the partners had to develop 35 different integrations (and to defer about as many) for different home appliances (utility meter readout, inverters, heat pump, domestic hot water and EC chargers). Wall-gardened solutions by appliances manufacturers are still the rule. This way consumers are tied to the same brand, but also device manufacturers (such as Sonnen, Tesla, etc.) are increasingly operating as service providers and seek to capitalise on their unique market positions.

The Matter first released in 2022 is a light of hope in this fragmented landscape. The open-source connectivity standard promoted by big tech companies provides a perspective for easy and secure access to home appliances data.


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Slide presented by Sam Holt (Carbon Co-op) at ISGT '23

Smart meter data, soon available on time

Whereas smart meters are being rolled out in more and more EU countries, the timely aavailability of data remains an issue. In Spain, for instance data is being sent by the DSO only several days after operation, preventing any service based on close to real time data (explicit DR for supplier balancing or for third party). The P1 port required by the DSMR and availble in Benelux countries is a good practice enabling to get easy access through physical connection to the meter.

The recent EU Regulation on interoperability requirements will be an accelerator of the needed changes. This set of new EU rules on access to electricity metering and consumption data issued in June 2023 will directly enter into force in Member States 18 months after publication. Among many interesting things, it defines ‘near real-time metering and consumption data’ and mandates Member States to put in place specific procedures for accessing it through a standardised interface or through remote access,

Open source, yet to be exploited

While a lot of commercial and citizen initiatives are emerging at EU level, the smart energy sector is a wild west of competing solutions seeking to raise capital in a context of fast evolution of the sector. Companies from both the digital and the power sectors may invest in a start-up. However, very few EU companies are leading on smart home services globally and competition has led to segmentation over devices or over siloed services. In this context open source solutions could help the smart home sector further develop. As an example, Home Assistant is a home automation control with 2.500+ integrations which we used for our COFYbox, However, while nothing is done at by EU institutions to suport open source in energy, private sector initiatives suported by LF Energy target system operators rather than grassroots service providers.

And more about the different flexibility services

The six cooperatives involved as energy service providers also came up with insights on drivers and barriers for each of the 7 flexibility related-services explored in the project. Whereas drivers reflect the diversity of energy communities’ services and business models, the barriers involve various aspects: technical, commercial, or market design related ones. However, interoperability is still the main issue preventing plug-and-play solutions. It then requires the intervention of a technician which then kills the business case for most flexibiilty services.

These are some of the most striking results from this thorough review. A more detailed list of 35 policy recommendations and takeaways is available in Annex 1 and is further explained within the context of the project all along our report.