We are halfway the REScoopVPP project 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. Today, we talk with pilot site manager Lucie Anizon, about the pilot tests that the project is carrying out in France and the involvement of the Enercoop energy community.
Lucie Anizon is project manager at Enercoop, a French cooperative retailer founded in 2004. Enercoop is a network of 11 cooperatives throughout France with more than 50.000 members and 100.000 clients. Lucie is in charge of implementing the French pilot and managing the Enercoop team engagement in the project.
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?
At Enercoop, we selected 20 of our members to implement the COFYbox (the flexibility device developed by the consortium) in their homes. Households will install the box and directly connect it to their smart-meters and assets. This will enable us, and them, to monitor and control their consumption so that some of it shifts from a period of low renewable generation to a period of high renewable generation! Specifically, we have developed two algorithms that forecast both our producer's electricity production and our customer's consumption. These algorithms will allow us to send a signal to the COFYbox so that the asset (hot water tank in our case) is turned on at the time of day when our producers produces the most, and of course when the user needs it.In addition, we work with the generation assets of the households but then it is up them to use the COFYbox as a tool to optimize their self-consumption.
How many citizens will be testing the REScoopVPP tools in the French pilot site?
We selected 20 members from 200 volunteers who responded to our call for interest or who had already let us know that they wanted to help us test new services or innovations. We focused on those users who have the right type of assets, compatible with the COFYbox. Apart from that, everyone was welcome in the project!
What are those assets that people need in order to be able to test the tools in the French pilot site?
In France, hot water tanks are widespread and represent a significant flexibility potential with little impact on user comfort; this is why we will focus on these electric assets. Although progress in self-consumption lags far behind compared to neighbouring countries, we will also connect the COFYbox to production assets and try to increase the self-consumption rate of these users.
How much commitment does the testing require from a French test-user?
Testing has not started yet, so this is not a definitive answer, but the idea is that the test-user should do as little as possible so it matches as possible "real life condition". We will have the equipment installed by a professional, so that no risk is taken with the electrical installation; then the test user will have to fill in his comfort preferences on an online platform, so that the COFYbox registers all the criteria that will guide his daily operation. After that, all the work is done by the COFYbox or by us! Of course we will ask the users to send us regular feedback about the COFYbox, the FAQ, the platform, the user experience, … so we can improve the product !
Once the testing and demonstration phase is completed, what will you do with the results?
For Enercoop, the aim of this pilot project is to test the effectiveness of the tools developed in the REScoopVPP project, their acceptability to the end users and their real impact on the management of grid imbalances. The results of the tests will help us decide whether or not it is feasible to ask our members to transfer part of their consumption from one moment in the day to another. Depending on this, we may be able to be much more precise in matching daily consumption to daily generation.
What is the main added value of participation in this project for your cooperative?
Being able to adapt our consumption on a large scale to the generation (instead of the other way around) would mean a total paradigm shift in the energy landscape! Indeed, it would allow us to be much less dependent on fossil energy, which we consume for example during peak hours, by moving part of this consumption to off-peak hours.
Very often our members ask us questions like when is a better moment of the day to turn their assets on or off or how they can be "prosumers" and contribute even more to the energy transition - most of them are already well aware of energy savings. With the COFYbox, they get concrete answers to those questions and are empowered to take an active role in the energy transition.
From a more pragmatic point of view, as a supplier, Enercoop has the responsibility to balance our customers' consumption on a 30 minutes bases with the generation we inject into the grid. Every time that balance is not achieved, it costs us money; so if we manage to reduce this imbalance, we reduce our costs, and our members directly benefit from this. REScoopVPP aims to develop advanced technology solutions.
Why do you think it is important that Enercoop or cooperatives in general get involved in these innovative projects?
Enercoop has always found great inspiration and solidarity in its European partnerships. As a cooperative in a world governed by classical capitalist actors, we are often faced with similar challenges and it is very useful and effective to be able to support each other and share resources. Moreover, having contacts on a regular basis and working with people from different countries, with different ideas, culture and regulations is very important to stay ahead and be leaders in our fields, to promote renewable energy and the cooperative model all over Europe! And practically speaking, we develop forecasting tools, while other members of the consortium work on the COFYbox hardware, on the software, on connecting all that to existing devices. It is exciting to do this in a consortium, because we would never be able to do it on our own!
What is your dream after three years of REScoopVPP?
I would be delighted if, after the project, we succeeded in having such a complete and user-friendly product that every energy community has it in their toolbox as the number one asset to have!