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"It is becoming more and more important to think of how to use renewable energy."

Malte Zieher, project manager

· Blog

It has already been more than a year since the REScoopVPP project started and much has already been achieved. In order to keep you up to date with our activities we are publishing a series of interviews with the people behind the project. After talking with the technical coordinator of REScoopVPP, Vincent Dierickx, now we discuss with Malte Zieher, REScoopVPP project manager, about the project foundations and the European energy legislation. 

Malte Zieher works for Bündnis Bürgerenergie, the German citizen energy alliance, networking citizen energy actors at a national level. He has co-founded several citizen energy projects in the region of Bremen, in Northwest Germany. After studying political sciences and sustainability economics and management, he worked for six years as a project manager for virtual power plants at energy & meteo systems in Oldenburg, Germany.

Malte Zieher

According to the project proposal, REScoopVPP aims to create the most advanced community-driven smart building ecosystem for energy communities. Could you explain what this ecosystem is about?

In the beginning of the energy transition, the main task was to simply install as much renewable energy plants as possible. While we still need to pick up the pace, it is becoming increasingly important to think of how to use this produced renewable energy. The more renewables we have, the more often there are times when there is more production than consumption, either locally or system-wide. That’s why we need to introduce smart flexibility to better balance our energy system. At the individual level, prosumers with their own photovoltaic installations are already driving this trend by installing batteries, heat pumps and smart controllers. The next step is to do this at the community level in order to make energy communities the regional enabler of 100% renewable energies. In this context, the aim of the REScoopVPP ecosystem is to enable communities to interconnect smart buildings and to aggregate flexibilities.

Why is this ecosystem important?

To make energy communities smart, we need the appropriate technology. The REScoopVPP ecosystem consists of a Community-driven Flexibility Box and community tools to support flexibility services. With the ecosystem, communities can become real-time operators of their members’ production and consumption. What makes the REScoopVPP ecosystem unique is that it is designed as an open source and collaborative ecosystem. This means that the tools can be adapted to the local needs and the communities’ characteristics in a cooperative approach.

The project has started with an analysis of the regulation on energy management and grid interactions of smart buildings in different European countries. What are currently the main barriers for prosumers or energy communities to participate in the energy market?

The energy market throughout Europe is still mainly created to correspond to large producers and consumer aggregates. Individual prosumers, for example a house with a photovoltaic installation, are most often able to self-consume the self-produced energy. But if they want to sell the excess energy to their neighbours, this is almost impossible. Also, if an energy community wants to let its members share their jointly produced energy, this most often fails due to market access requirements, which are impossible to comply with.

Are there many differences between EU countries?

Yes, the energy markets in the European Union differ a lot from one Member State to another. In most countries self-consumption is limited to one building or a building complex. In Spain though, it is possible to take part in a self-consumption scheme using the public power grid within a 500 meter radius. In most countries, balancing and flexibility markets are set up at national level, although grid congestions or voltage fluctuations are mostly regional phenomena. However, in the UK, unfortunately no longer an EU member, but still part of the project through CarbonCoop, there are regional flexibility markets. Energy prices also vary widely from Member State to Member State, making some flexibility business models more attractive in some countries.

The Clean Energy Package, the new EU legislation that recognises and formalises the role of energy communities, is currently being transposed into the national legislation of the different member states. How will this process and possible changes in national legislation affect the project?

The Clean Energy Package is a turning point for European energy legislation. It aims to set citizens at the heart of the European Energy Union to take ownership of the energy transition. Specifically, the Clean Energy Package gives prosumers the right to consume self-produced energy, and renewable energy communities, the right to let their members share the jointly produced energy. However, there are still too many countries that have not yet or only partially transposed the new rights into national law. The project aims to give an overview of the current state of transposition and formulate policy recommendations on how to leverage the potential of renewable energy communities to offer flexibility services.

The project is carried out by a consortium of 12 partners, most of them energy cooperatives, without including any market-oriented energy provider. Are energy cooperatives ready/mature to take this active role in the flexibility market? 

The project actually includes several cooperative energy providers. Som Energia delivers energy to 128.000 customers; Enercoop up to 100.000; Ecopower up to 50.000; and Bürgerwerke, to more than 10.000. In addition, two federations, two universities and several technical partners are involved in the project. We believe we have a perfectly mature consortium to make the REScoopVPP ecosystem real and successful. Moreover, we hope to get many cooperatives on board once the project is finished and the technology can be spread across Europe.

What is your dream after three years of REScoopVPP?

My dream is that at the end of the project there will be a European cooperative that will take care of the further development of the hard- and software. Moreover, I hope that the technology will be used across Europe either through direct membership of local cooperatives of the European cooperative or by establishing an intermediate level with national cooperatives that translate the solutions developed into nationally adapted business models. In short, our ambition is to create the most advanced community-driven smart building ecosystem for renewable energy communities.

Bündnis Bürgerenergie is currently presenting policy recommendations to overcome the barriers for the use of flexibility in collective self-consumption and energy sharing schemes in Germany. The barriers and potential solutions can be seen in three videos (currently only in German):