Renewable energy communities in Italy and in Europe
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The new Italian regulations concerning Renewable Energy Communities (RECs) give a significant boost to distributed generation, encouraging the development of ‘zero-mile’ local energy production and smart grids.
An Energy Community is an association that produces and shares renewable energy, generating and managing cost-effective green energy autonomously, reducing CO2 emissions and energy waste. The community may be composed of local citizens, businesses, public administrations, small and medium-sized enterprises, etc.
The members of an energy community can be individuals or legal entities: basically, any public or private entity that wants to form a Renewable Energy Community. For example, people who live in the same neighborhood and want to develop a REC may do so.
What steps need to be followed? First of all, it’s necessary to identify the area where the energy production plant will be installed, because it must be in proximity to the consumers. Generally speaking, disused industrial land is particularly recommended: such sites are generally big enough to house a future renewable plant and meet the size, position and designated use requirements outlined in the regulations.
The electricity produced must be shared using the existing electricity distribution grid and the self-consumption of the renewable energy occurs virtually.
The plant does not necessarily have to be owned by the Community; it can also be made available by one or more of the participating members, or even by a third party.
The interested people and organizations that meet the prerequisites for belonging to the project can set up a Renewable Energy Community, which is a legal entity.
Since by law an Energy Community cannot be created as a profit-making business, the organizational forms most commonly used for reasons of practicality and convenience are those of an unincorporated association or a cooperative.
Unincorporated associations can be set up through a simple registration contract with the Agenzia delle Entrate (the Italian Internal Revenue Service) and have low management costs and relatively simple organizational requirements.
All members of an Energy Community maintain their rights as end users, including the right to choose their electricity supplier, and can withdraw from the Community at any time.
Once the power plant is up and running, the Community can submit a request – even through a delegated external company – to GSE (the Energy Services Manager) for the incentives established by law for the shared energy.
The incentives are granted only for the energy shared within the energy community, that is, energy consumed by members at the same time the energy is produced.
If energy production exceeds consumption, the economic value of the surplus energy, without any additional benefits, will be returned to the energy community.
The law concerning Energy Communities does not specify which technology to adopt, but photovoltaics is best suited for taking advantage of these measures.
Collective self-consumption concerns one specific building equipped with photovoltaic systems: the energy produced can be shared among apartment owners or co-owners, but only in the specific location where it’s generated.
Energy communities, however, bring together a number of parties capable of producing energy thanks to nearby plants, but these do not necessarily have to be installed on the same building: in this case the self-consumption is virtual.
Energy Communities also promote the circular economy, because the plants are usually constructed on disused industrial land, which is repurposed. They also offer a substantial opportunity to support and boost the growth of small and medium-sized enterprises, which can find a role to play in the development, construction, operation and maintenance of the renewable plants, which benefits local industry and employment in the area in which they operate.
We have long been committed to developing renewable energy plants in Italy and abroad and we believe that Renewable Energy Communities are a fundamental tool for the energy transition and the achievement of Net Zero. That’s why we will invest in the development of RECs, identifying the most appropriate sites, obtaining the necessary authorizations, constructing the renewable energy plants and taking care of their operation and maintenance.
We will mainly be involved with ground-mounted photovoltaic plants, generating development opportunities by leveraging our relationships with developers, installers, public organizations and landowners whose land has an area of 1 to 10 hectares.
Once the site where the plant will be built has been chosen, Enel X will facilitate the establishment of the Renewable Energy Community, by trying to match the renewable plant’s generation profile with the Energy Community’s consumption profile.
It is our deeply held belief that Energy Communities will have a key role to play in accelerating the process of decarbonization in Italy, electrifying consumption, reducing the cost of energy and supporting the production of small and medium-sized enterprises in our country.
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