This article is part of our special report How Interreg transforms the Mediterranean region.
An EU-funded Interreg project promoting microgrids technology has managed to help consumers produce renewable electricity on their own. But the ultimate objective to enable reselling the power to their neighbour has been hindered by regulatory obstacles.
Although the technology is there, it cannot be fully developed in practice, because EU member states have not yet implemented the relevant EU legislation.
Pegasus, an Interreg MED project, was launched three years ago and ended last month. Its main objective was to test the development of microgrids technology in order for consumers to be able to produce electricity through renewables and create local energy communities, selling it to neighbours or to the grid at a guaranteed price.
“We wanted to promote the efficient use of microgrids in rural areas and islands. Eleven countries involved in the project and all partners were from the Mediterranean region,” Ivana Ostoic, an expert involved in the project, told EURACTIV.
“We managed to prove that the use of microgrids for prosumers has both financial and environmental value, as well as a positive social impact, as local workers were predominantly employed,” the Croatian expert added.
She explained that microgrids are basically local electricity networks, which allows participants to sell the electricity generated from renewables, such as solar, thermal or hydro, directly to neighbours.
But during implementation, the partners were faced with regulatory problems in different EU countries.
“We proved that technically there are no problems at all. But EU member states have not integrated into national law an EU Directive that allows people to be electricity prosumers so that they can sell the energy as individuals,” Ostoic said.
“Except France, where they now have some minor changes in their legislative framework, in all other countries there is no legislation,” she said.
She added that if one wants to be an electricity prosumer, technically he can, and basically sell it just to the grid. “You cannot sell it directly, for instance, to your neighbour.”
According to Ostoic, the creation of these local energy communities will change mindsets and enable savings on costs and additional fees that consumers currently pay in their regular energy bills.
She cited as an example the Adriatic municipality of Preko, where a state-owned building generated electricity and sold it to another public building. Through this process, money was saved and was then used by local authorities to provide hot meals for older citizens.
“How many buildings can we use and do the same?” the mayor of Preko asked, according to the expert.
Consumers: drivers of energy transition
The EU legislation, particularly the reviewed Renewable Energy Directive, has set the framework that will allow citizens to engage more actively in the energy transition and benefit from it.
A European Commission spokesperson told EURACTIV that member states have to transpose the directive by 30 June 2021.
“This transposition has to result in the establishment of an enabling framework promoting and facilitating the development of renewables self-consumption and renewable energy communities,” she said.
After the transposition deadline, the Commission will check that member states have completely and correctly transposed the provisions of the Directive, the EU spokesperson said.
“Consumers are the drivers of the energy transition,” the spokesperson underlined, adding that new technologies such as smart grids, smart homes and battery storage solutions make it increasingly possible for energy consumers to become active players on the market.
“Renewable energy deployment is transforming the European energy system. Such a change will require an important shift in the energy system, with an increasing role played by citizens,” the EU official said.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic and Frédéric Simon]