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"We, the not-for-profit, social, citizen-owned enterprises, must show that we can also be at the forefront of development. "

Interview with Jairo Echàve, Som Energia

· News,Blog

Currently our REScoopVPP project is in the testing phase. In all our pilots, the flexibility tools are being tested and evaluated. This brings us to the next interview with one of the people behind the project. Today, we talk with pilot site manager Jairo Echàvez about the pilot tests that the project is carrying out in Spain and the involvement of the Som Energia cooperative members.

Jairo Echàve is project manager at Som Energia, a renewable energy cooperative that promotes the energy transition to energy democracy in Spain, by putting people in the centre of the energy landscape. Currently, Som Energia has more than 80.000 members and supplies local renewable energy to more than 125.000 households. As a project manager, Jairo carries out the rollout of the RescoopVPP pilots in Spain. He is liaison with end-users so that they can make the most of this project’s potential. The close relationship with the community strengthens ties and sows the seed that demand adaptation helps us move faster towards sustainability.

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The REScoopVPP project is developing tools to enable citizens to lower their energy consumption and to use primarily renewable energy whenever available. These tools are being tested in five real-life environments. You are managing one of these pilot sites. Can you explain what your pilot site looks like?

Our pilot users are members of our energy community, spread throughout Catalonia. Their installations have been chosen to represent the greatest diversity of our community, in terms of the type of electrical assets they have at home, the type of household and the size and dispersion between appliances. This selection makes it possible to test the versatility of the project in different types of cases.

Most pilot users have generate their own solar energy, as it is expected that this user profile can benefit more from the REScoopVPP flexibility features.


What are the specific tools that are being tested in Spain and what are they aimed for?

These tools are designed to help citizens reduce their energy costs and carbon footprint. Ideally, this should be done automatically, by shifting the consumption of some household appliances to the most convenient hours of the day, leading to both optimisation of the household's own consumption of solar energy (when a solar installation is available in the household) and reduction of tariff consumption during peak hours.

At this stage, we focus on immersion heaters. In Spain, it is very common to heat domestic water (DHW) using an electric immersion heater, which has a significant share in electricity consumption, as they heat 50-150 litres of water with a resistance of 1-2kW. In these cases, the COFYbox (the box we supply, in which the intelligence resides) manages the operation of the immersion heater according to price signals or the availability of solar energy.

Moreover, we are already developing technical solutions that will also allow members to automatically manage heat pumps, electric batteries and electric vehicles according to same principles.

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How many citizens will be testing the REScoopVPP tools in the Spanish pilot site?

Currently, about 25 families are participating in the one-year trial period of the project. During this period, we can simulate different scenarios in different seasons and thus collect enough behavioural data to assess and optimally configure the equipment.

Which type of test-users did you select? What are the important criteria to be able to test the tools in the Spanish pilot site?

The main criteria for being selected as a test user is that you have at least one of these manageable electrical loads: immersion heater, heat pump, electric battery and/or vehicle. The more of these devices you have, the better for testing. Moreover, almost all pilot users have their own solar power generation because we wanted to test the integration of different solar inverters to achieve as much expertise as possible.

We also chose some users who like to "play" with technologies. This system is ready to integrate other IOT energy devices in the future, so we also wanted these more advanced users to push the system even further.

How much commitment does the testing require from a Spanish test-user?

First, we invited the pilots to a workshop where we explained the objectives of the project and the steps we were taking. Then we visit the user's household, at least once, to install and activate the COFYbox and connect the manageable assets to it. If anything else needs to be set up, we don't normally have to go back to the pilot site because we can do that remotely. From then on, the user does not have to be bothered with anything because the COFYbox automatically does all the work. At the end of the project, we will hold another workshop to share and disseminate the results of the test period.

(c) Som Energia

Once the testing and demonstration phase is completed, what will you do with the results?

By the end of testing, we will have a full assessment of performance and will share the results first with the pilots and then with our other community members.

At this stage, the diversity between the selected pilots from the Spanish site will also provide insights as to which user profile benefits more from this COFYbox technology, so that we can cluster them and prioritise a possible large-scale implementation afterwards.

The quantification of energy savings will allow us to assess the economic sustainability of the measures, and so we could consider adding the COFYbox purchase to the collective purchases that Som Energia facilitates to its community! And that would be great because it would promote flexibility (Demand Side Response) and empowerment of all members.

What is the main added value of participation in this project for your cooperative?

Our mission is to build a better, efficient, renewable energy model in the hands of citizens. Som Energia itself is already an energy community, and with this project we aim to unlock the flexibility potential for our members. We want to help our community turn its electrical appliances into a kind of Virtual Power Plant (VPP) that benefits families and the community as a whole, through cheaper, greener and responsible energy consumption.

REScoopVPP aims to develop advanced technology solutions. Why do you think it is important that Som Energia or cooperatives in general get involved in these innovative projects?

The deployment of this project is a step forward towards energy digitisation and social empowerment. It is worth noting that our solutions under development are based on an open source philosophy and data privacy protection, and always meet real ecological and social criteria.

We, the not-for-profit, social, citizen-owned enterprises, must show that we can also be at the forefront of development. Otherwise, we, citizens, will once again be tied to companies that are guided only by profit.

What is your dream after three years of REScoopVPP?

Can you imagine a socially driven energy model with high penetration of renewable energy, or even 100% green? One of the challenges to achieving this is that the demand side also needs to adapt to the availability of green energy. Once we have proven the value of the COFYbox, we would like to start disseminating it to users. Now, with this project, we are one step closer!