The trend of energy usage from various energy sources in Spain tells that a revolution is growing. Merely looking at how development has moved in Spain, we see clearly that the increased consumption of energy has called for increased power generation over the years. In 2011, only 249.7TWh of 276.8TWh of the energy produced in Spain was consumed, and it was still a large amount.
Spain is currently populated by 47.1 million people, and each citizen relies on energy for their activities. Spain is the sixth-largest energy consumer in Europe and mostly has to import fuel. This is a result of the lack of abundant petroleum resources.
Generally, fossil fuel, wind, solar, nuclear, and hydroelectric energy sources are actively utilized in Spain. However, Spain is one of the countries that has started working actively to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. Right from the early 2000s, Spain has been making efforts to focus more on renewable energy. While this is major because of the adverse effects of fossil fuels on the environment, it has also brought advancements in energy management and proper utilization.
The Growth of Renewable Energy in Spain.
To date, Spain keeps making progress in the production and use of renewable energy. For a country that used to import a lot of coal and release subsidies for the cause, the new changes have a great impact on the economy. Some highlights in the trend of events relating to renewable energy in Spain are listed below.
- The global recession in 2008 significantly reduced the power generation rate in Spain by 11%, yet the market keeps bouncing back.
- Significant progress has been made in the generation of power from renewable energy. On barely comparing 2016 and last year, we see the difference is clear. Despite the COVID-19 outbreak, renewable energy generation in 2020 was 43.6% of gross electricity generation, which is an improvement from the 39% produced in 2016. In the newsletter by the Spanish grid operator – Red Electrica de Espana – it was recorded that this was the highest recorded so far.
- Wind energy has become a major part of the renewable energy sector, but solar photovoltaics are still coming up, despite the vastness of solar resources. Last year (2020), the reduction in overall power demand did not stop renewable energy sources from flourishing.
The Challenges Facing Renewable Energy Policies in Spain
Spain had set a target in 2014 to be met for renewable energy by 2020: 42.6% of total electricity generated. Moreover, in 2018, the goal has been increased to 70% by 2030. Consequently, the renewable energy regulations in Spain also say that emissions must be reduced by 20%.
Even with all of these bright sides, a major challenge to the effective use and implementation of renewable energy in Spain is the lack of resources, successive change in governments, and so much reliance on government as regards renewable energy. As governments change, policies have changed.
Despite the situation, the European Union approved a support scheme earlier this year to support energy-intensive companies in Spain. This scheme, which is set to run till December 2022, is a great investment. Their government would carry out more projects, and renewable energy will be of great benefit to the energy status of Spain. This was done under EU state aid, and it is truly of great help.
Ongoing Renewable Energy Projects and Initiatives in Spain.
These projects reflect a deep commitment to development and sustainability. Solar and wind power generation have the highest percentage of renewable energy in Spain. Some examples of projects and initiatives on each (solar and wind power) are highlighted below.
1. Total Solar Project in Spain
Total Energies is planning to thrive on the promising solar market in Spain. Total is currently planning to enter the solar market via partnerships. Two partners have agreed on the two gigawatts (2GW) solar projects – Powertis and Solarbay Renewable Energy. This project would make a great impact on the renewable energy sector of Spain.
The partnership between Total Solar International and Powertis is a 65%-35% one that would need Powertis to bring a pipeline of 800MW. This project started last year. Also, Total is obtaining all 1.2GW portfolio of projects by Solarbay. The projects are all to end by the latest 2023.
2. Wind Power Generation by Various Companies – Enel Green Power’s Wind Farm
Certain suppliers of wind energy in Spain (Gamesa Eólica, Alstom Wind, Acciona Energy, Iberdrolla, MTorres, and the rest) are still going strong in their operations. As of 2015, Spain became the fifth biggest wind power producer in the world. Producing up to 48,118 GWh of power from wind turbines that year, which formed 19% of the total power generated.
Enel Green Power is currently building a wind farm in Spain with an investment of €181 million ($220 million). This project would feature 43 wind turbines and can generate up to 471GWh of clean energy. The project aims to meet one of the major goals of renewable energy development – reducing carbon emissions. Consequently, when this project comes fully up by next year as we expect, it will offset up to 385,505 tonnes of carbon emissions. This is a big one for the progress of renewable energy in Spain.
For a study period of 2020-2026, experts have it that the CAGR of the renewable energy market in Spain would be more than 6%. This is a result of encouraging government policies and the need to reduce climate-damaging emissions.
Solar power installations are projected to be up to 30GW by 2030. This would be significant in moving renewable energy in Spain forward. Also, the market of offshore wind power has remained untapped and would give opportunities in the next ten years.
Optimistically, another projection for Spain is the tendency to outdo the predictions for renewable energy additions. Argus’ monitoring of proposed wind projects envisions a higher level of wind power generation in a few years.
Spain has come a long way and can fight through its challenges for the sake of improving renewable energy. From the generation of power to utilization, the energy stakeholders in Spain need to maximize available resources and smart grid technologies to meet up with the bright future catching up with the rest of the world.
In France, the electricity-generating mix is made up of five essential sources: coal, natural gas, petroleum and other liquid fuels, nuclear power and renewable sources.
Renewable resources are the fastest-growing electricity generation source increasing by 2.9% per year. Hydropower is the predominant renewable source leading the global trend, and it accounted for 62,08% of the renewable energy production in France for 2015.
Interesting Facts About Renewable Energy in France.
Despite having such a considerable percentage of its electrical energy come from hydropower, the French power system is dominated by stable nuclear power generation.
In the 1970s and 80s, the government of France decided to build thirty-four 900 MWe nuclear reactors while the rest of the world was recuperating from two oil crises. The success of these nuclear programs and their subsequent additions removed France from a constant reliance on fossil fuels. As of 2000, France’s nuclear energy represented 75% of its electricity production, meeting national and export needs.
However, nuclear waste is a foreboding partner of nuclear energy. So, diversification became paramount. France got to see a bit of this diversity in their power mix during the coronavirus-related lockdowns by introducing more stable renewable energy sources. In spring, some days would manage up to 35% of total electricity production just from renewables.
The French Ministry of Ecological Transition has said that with support and rapid development, renewable energy sources are becoming more competitive. Prices of solar photovoltaic energy have fallen by 40% within the past five years, while the prices of onshore wind power have fallen to half of that percentage within its range of three years.
Renewable Energy Policies In France
Since the days of heavy dependence on nuclear power, the second-largest economy in the European Union has been focused on a certain form of self-reliance and development. The government has now decided to cut down the usage of nuclear reactors and fill those gaps with renewable energy sources, ensuring a sustainable energy transition for all.
The development of renewable energy was extensively promoted via public support until recently. With the government’s involvement on a larger scale, production costs are expected to fall further, facilitating lower costs for renewable energy generation.
President Emmanuel Macron plans to fall in line with the Paris agreements, Energy Transition for Green Growth and biodiversity laws.
Here are the objectives of EN MARCHE (The Environmental Program):
- Significant reduction of fossil fuels through the closure of coal-based plants in 5 years, ban on shale gas explorations and integration of ecological cost in the price of carbon by a carbon tax increase of up to €100/tCO2 in 2030
- Acceleration of changes towards carbon-free energy production by financing renewable energy, favouring private investments, focusing on research and development and implementing the energy transition law with the objective of 32% RES in 2030
- Introducing a new economic model of recycling
- Supporting the transitions through job creation and protection of biodiversity
The Energy Transition Law (ETL) has its policies entrenched in increasing the use of renewable energy through
- Creating means to possibly allow citizens and local authorities to receive funding for renewable energy projects
- Introduce the widespread use of single permits for wind energy, biogas and hydroelectricity
- Mandate obligatory power purchase prices to finance renewable electricity that is self-generated by private individuals and businesses
- Bring to fruition the objective of financing 1500 Methanation projects in France alone
- Introducing 35 million smart meters (smart grid technology)
Under the ETL, the Multiannual Energy Plan (MEP/PPE) sets a general orientation for the energy policy in France from 2019 to 2023 and 2024 to 2028. This general policy includes projections and plans for renewable electricity, hydropower, onshore wind, offshore wind, photovoltaic solar, methanation (waste and biogas), firewood, marine, geothermal and solar thermal.
Ongoing Renewable Energy Projects In France
The France Energy Ministry, in the first week of April 2020 awarded 1.7 GW of renewable projects to private developers through a national-level auction. The wind turbine is supposed to power 750 MW of that 1.7 GW while different solar technologies will power the rest. Through several procurement rounds, well over 288 projects were approved, potentially supplying 2.6 TWh of electricity every year to the French grid realistically.
According to Platts Renewables Tracker, France has 17 GW of onshore wind and 10 GW of solar capacity already installed and expected to generate up to 34% yearly.
The energy company – Total has received over 135 MW of solar projects from France with its future largest ground-mounted solar plant in Valenciennes with a capacity of 50 MWp. It is the largest project awarded in the call for tenders and Total Quadran’s biggest solar plant to date. It will supply green energy to more than 30,000 people when it comes online in 2022.
The largest PV power plant of the Greater Paris Region with 25 MWp was also tendered to Total. This one will generate green electricity for nearly 17,000 people when it comes on stream by 2022.
The French government hopes to increase the support for renewables by 25% by injecting €6 billion into renewables energy spending in 2021, targeting further diversification of the country’s energy mix, and by 2028 double installed renewable electricity capacity to up to 113 GW. Onshore wind will generate up to 34.7 GW, offshore wind – 6.2 GW, solar – 44 GW and hydropower 26.7 GW.
By 2035, 14 nuclear reactors will be closed; two found in eastern France at Electricite de France SA’s Fessenheim plant have already been shuttered.
Hydroelectricity is currently the primary source of France’s renewable electricity, but wind power is slowly catching up. Projections show wind power will overtake hydroelectricity in France by 2030 with 43,89% of the total energy mix.
France aims to reduce its energy consumption by 14% by 2028 and increase installed RE power generation to 74 GW in 2023. This will bring the net addition within the ten years upheld by MEP/PPE to about 50 MW – 60 MW.
The French government has outlined and streamlined their strategy to a smooth energy transition, along with most of the EU states, setting targets for a better energy generation outlook that will fit their unique economy.
PARITY is a project that revolves around a central theme described as “Pro-sumer Aware, Transactive Markets for the Valorization of Distributed flexibility enabled by Smart Energy Contracts”. With this definition, it is clear that blockchain technology is involved mainly because smart contracts are in the mix. In this project, Hive Power is responsible for implementing the blockchain Local Flexibility Market.
However, blockchain technology is not the only form of tech involved in PARITY. The IoT also has a significant role to play in this valorization process.
In simple terms, PARITY hopes to use blockchain technology and IoT to help conventional grids deal with the integration challenges of new RES by engaging end-users who will become effectively aware of prosumers to enable stable energy pricing.
What are the Objectives of PARITY?
The vision of PARITY focuses on implementing local energy sharing that helps with pricing and easing the stress on the grid as well as giving value to its flexibility sources such as EVs, heat pumps and batteries. It is also a new business model that puts prosumers on a pedestal, allowing the opportunity for energy exchange such as P2P energy trading and dynamic pricing.
This guarantees security and automation of operation through blockchain technology, smart contracts, demand-side management and the IoT.
How PARITY Works
Under the initial lab trial for PARITY, a smart contract scenario was created to monitor consumers’ energy consumption via their devices and, in turn, exchange this information with the blockchain, automatically deciding settlements and further actions. The Hosts included:
- IoT Gateways also acting as blockchain nodes
- Light devices
- HVAC devices
- Smart plugs
- Oracles; which served as a link between the physical world and virtual blockchain world
The Internet of Things (IoT) has an ecosystem involved in this project. Within this ecosystem is the IoT Gateway which is deployed on-premises with an Information Management cloud infrastructure that helps with data processing and persistence.
A gateway that enables communication between the Building WSN and the IoT cloud and ambient sensing, control and sub-metering data provision through multiprotocol gateway communicating with a wide variety of off-the-shelf sensors make up part of this ecosystem.
A few other critical elements of this ecosystem are:
- The Information Management cloud normalization.
- Semantic annotation.
- Compression of data and calculation of KPIs.
While within the blockchain ecosystem, PARITY Cosmos sidechain aims to interconnect with the Cosmos blockchain, support the market and smart contract aspect, and facilitate interconnection with other authorized off-chain parties through relevant interfaces.
The Oracles involved in PARITY are responsible for verifying and transmitting real-world events in a trusted and secure way by triggering smart contract transactions and retrieving anonymized data from specific prosumer service legal agreements (SLAs) to be used as key performance indicators to the blockchain smart contracts framework.
The Local Flexibility Market
Local flexibility of PARITY enables multiple uses across the board, like in prosumer apps that include informative billing and automated profiling. The Local Flexibility Market also runs on the Hive blockchain platform, while PARITY Oracles and DER dispatch are part of the multiple-use cases enabled by PARITY.
The Local Market design of PARITY follows a defining structure:
- Market participants which include Distribution System Operators (DSOs), prosumers, aggregators and market operators
- Instruments for providing flexibility such as market-based and control-based instruments (LEM & LFM)
- Market operator
- Local scope of the market
- Coordination between flexibility requesting parties
Two markets are introduced within this concept, the Local Electricity Market (LEM) and the Local Flexibility Market (LFM).
- LEM encourages P2P trading among prosumers and is operated by Local Electricity Market Operator (LEMO)
- LFM, however, activates flexibility for the needs of DSOs. Under this, the Explicit LFM design is a market platform operated by the Local Flexibility Market Operator (LFMO), while Implicit LFM market design is implicitly integrated into the LEM. DSOs can impose varying grid prices, and prosumers can react to this via their trades on the LEM.
The Roles of Stakeholders
Distribution System Operators have a traffic light concept that outlines their response to specific regulations within PARITY called the traffic light concept.
- BLACK means a grid outage, and at this stage, the DSOs disconnect everything in the constrained area for the safety of the grid
- RED means distribution grid is constrained; here, DSOs can override market-based contracts and perform direct load control
- YELLOW means the DSO has forecasted constraint violations; here, Implicit and Explicit LFM are activated
- GREEN means there are no constraint violations, and DSOs perform active grid monitoring
ESCOs (Energy service companies) are also stakeholders in PARITY because they focus on developing and building financing projects that save energy, reduce energy costs, and decrease the cost of maintenance and operation on the customers’ end. They offer improvements in energy efficiency based on a performance contracting method, so compensation for projects is directly linked to actual energy cost savings. In PARITY, ESCOs will enable fair pricing at all ends.
Risks and Barriers Encountered With PARITY
Obstacles that stand to hinder the fast adoption of PARITY include:
- Administrative barriers like lack of regulation and charging cost rules
- Standardization barriers like diversity and interoperability
- Trust barriers such as emerging technologies, security and privacy
- Technical barriers like networking and reliability
- Cost barriers such as pricing and margins
Pilot Sites And Use Cases
Pilot Sites have been spread across four European countries; Spain, Sweden, Greece and Switzerland. They range from office buildings, residential buildings to fuel stations for EV charging points.
There have been several use cases in PARITY, one of them focused on congestion management by DSO through the operation of LFM to increase DER penetration. The steps taken included detecting the network colour by DSO, activating LFM and mapping DER, which resulted in dynamic activation of flexibility in real-time to eliminate congestion.
PARITY is all about fairness and integration of all platforms and parties involved in the electricity distribution process. The project uses new-age technology to solve conventional and innovative challenges hoping to ease the stress in all quarters and improve sustainability. As Partners in the PARITY project, Hive Power understands the objective all too well and we’re seeking to chart a new course in the grid technologies industry.
Energy sources have metamorphosed throughout the history of technological innovations. The need to meet the demand requirements with supply targets has been top of mind for energy researchers and innovators.
Renewable energy sources have turned out to be the answer to balancing out energy needs worldwide. Carbon neutral sources such as sunlight, wind, geothermal heat and rain are perfect examples of renewable sources, while biomass fuels made from organic and animal matter such as wood, waste from farms and energy crops have a debatable carbon neutral status but still play a significant role in the renewable energy industry.
There are four primary areas where renewables are utilized: electricity production, heating and cooling, off-grid energy needs and transportation. In Germany, renewable energy sources are primarily based on wind, solar and biomass fuels.
Interesting Facts About Renewable Energy In Germany
Germany has gradually been phasing out its use of fossil fuels in the electricity sector, targeting to reduce the emissions used in this sector by nearly 60% by 2030. They are among the early adopters of renewable energy, going as far back as the 1990s.
In 2020, Germany’s gross electricity generation from renewable sources peaked at 251 terawatt-hours bringing it closer to becoming a major contributor to the European Union’s efforts to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.
Although wind power is the primary source of renewable energy in Germany, offshore wind farms only recently contributed to this energy sector. On the other hand, Hydropower contributes the least to the energy generation sector in Germany with a steady decline from the 2000s. With the expansion of the wind energy sector, employment has also increased, leading to nearly 121,000 employees as of 2020.
This energy mix works well for Germany as it does not have to rely on only one source of renewables and can function adequately with the options at its disposal.
How Far Germany Has Come In The Renewable Energy Journey.
Energiewende is a compound word used to express Germany’s all-encompassing climate and energy strategy. The term is a combination of two words: energy and transition. It gained popularity after a book with the same name was published in the 1980s, outlining its exact meaning and reasons for adoption. It started as an approach involving energy efficiency, energy security, renewables and nuclear phaseout, with climate change coming in much later into the mix. Its success or failure, however, is constantly measured via carbon emissions counts. Germany has a target of cutting down its present emissions by 80 – 95%, below the levels seen in the 1990s.
Industries in Germany have not had the smoothest ride through this renewables roller coaster, but one sector that has given way for a new one is the coal sector. The structural transformation that took hold of the coal sector saw five times as many employees in the wind energy sector as coal, starting from the 2000s. With further data analysis, it was evident that roughly one in two employees of the energy sector works in renewables, that is almost 700,000 more people in the energy sector as compared to the early days of Energiewende.
Germany has acquired exponential growth in the wind energy sector, which accounted for 23.7 per cent of total electricity generated in 2020. The use of solar PV, which was at one point Europe’s largest solar market and the hydropower stations, which produced 18.7 billion kilowatts in 2020, is also part of this energy sector growth. They also stand as the fifth largest bioenergy capacity globally, with a cumulative installed capacity of biomass plants reaching 9,301 megawatts in 2020.
Favourable Renewable Energy Policies In Germany
In Germany, the market premium scheme is the major support for renewables. This type of scheme is characteristic of several EU countries.
Some support schemes are
- Feed-in-Tariff: this is a policy that guarantees above market price for producers. It works for power plants of up to 100 KW, where the amount of tariff is set by law and paid by the grid operator to the plant operators for 20 years.
- Tendering: these are competitive mechanisms for allocating financial support to renewable energy sources projects, usually based on the cost of electricity production. For Germany, onshore and offshore wind projects starting from 750 kW, solar projects starting from 750 kW, biomass plants starting from 150 kW and already existing biomass plants must be awarded in a tendering procedure.
Other policies include:
- Training programmes for Installers: Installers are trained in the art of renewables technologies in the framework of craftsmen training.
- Certification Programmes for RES installations: Plants must comply with the technical requirements by acquiring certificates depending on the particular technology to be connected to the grid.
- Exemplary role of public authorities: Public authorities must promote an exemplary role in carrying out their duties on renewable energy.
Ongoing Renewable Energy Projects In Germany
According to the European Energy Agency, within the EU, offshore wind energy production is expected to increase up to five times by 2040. In the German Baltic Sea, several projects are meant to be underway with a call for tenders to install renewable energy sources in three zones within the Baltic Sea, sent out by the German government on March 1 2021.
Other projects such as Borkum Riffgrund 3, a 900 MW offshore wind farm, is scheduled for operation in 2025, while the Kaskasi project will be commissioned by 2022.
Expert Projections On Renewable Energy Growth In Germany
Wind energy production could become the most crucial energy source in Europe by 2050, and Germany could produce 36 GW of this energy through offshore wind energy by 2050. However, with the closure of coal-fired power plants, Germany may have to increase this production rate to 50 GW to compensate for those closures. The general plan is to produce 20 GW by 2030 and increase that to 40 GW by 2040.
Despite having several renewable energy sources, Germany is focusing on wind energy to make sure it meets its set targets and the EU and Paris Agreement. These targets are ambitious but necessary in the long run. And we believe that by integrating smart grid technologies and powerful grid data analytics software, Germany is a step closer to achieving its targets more effectively.
In Europe, some countries stand out for renewable energy conversation, and Italy is one of the top players. For 2018 and 2020, respectively, Italy beat its renewable energy targets. The total energy produced by hydroelectric, solar, wind, bioenergy and geothermal power in Italy for 2018 reached 17.8% of final gross consumption, going past the 17% target set for 2020.
There was a 7.7% of consumption in the transport sector for individual sectors, 33.9% in electricity production and 19.2% in heat consumption from renewable energy sources within Italy in 2018. Overall, with that amount of electricity consumption, Italy greatly exceeded the National Action Plan’s target on renewable energy sources, also known as the PAN, for the years 2018 (24.6%) and 2020 (26.4%).
Italy is ranked among the top ten in Europe as part of the list of countries leading electricity production from renewable energy sources. The national impact on the European Union’s total is about 10.7%. The ambitious target for 2030 set by Italy’s National Energy and Climate Plan accounts for 30% consumption with renewable energy sources. So this makes it necessary for Italy to promote and install its renewable energy plans in the future.
Italy’s Renewable Energy Journey, How Far They’ve Come.
The fastest-growing source of renewable energy in Italy is photovoltaic solar energy (PV). Data from 2018, the last full year of available data, shows that photovoltaic systems and installations produced over 22 TWh of energy.
Material from the IEA’s papers on the Global PV Markets also details the impact PV has on the Italian energy sector; accordingly, photovoltaic energy produced by Italy in 2020 was 7.5% of total electricity generation.
With its $6million renewable energy incentives program and a 20.8GW total PV installed capacity as of 2019, more power plants are encouraged to enrol for the specifically packaged incentives. Italy’s strategy for 2021 – 2030 is spelt out in its Integrated National Plan for Energy and Climate (PNIEC). It addresses decarbonisation, energy efficiency, self-consumption and distributed generation, energy security and consumption electrification. This strategy aims to bring the part of renewable energy of the final gross consumption rate to 30% by 2030.
Policies Promoting The Growth Of Renewable Energy In Italy
After beating its own 17% set target for renewables shares six years ahead of schedule, Italy has set about creating policies and guidelines to streamline the renewable energy sector for maximum profit all around. It is working under the EU Energy Roadmap 2050 of decreasing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 per cent from 1990 levels using its National Energy Strategy 10-year road map.
The National Energy Strategy seeks to increase competitiveness, sustainability and security in the Italian national energy sector through schemes and incentives specifically tailored to the Italian market. The schemes or policies responsible for renewable energy – electricity in Italy are controlled by Gestore dei Servizi Energetic (GSE – the Manager of Electricity Services).
Some of the policies are:
- Electricity generated from renewable energy sources is promoted through VAT- and real estate tax deductions.
- Electricity generated from renewable energy sources fed into the grid can be sold on the free market or to the GSE on a guaranteed minimum price colloquially termed “ritiro dedicato.”
- Net-metering, also known as “scambio sul posto”, provides a convenient compensation to prosumers for the electricity fed into the grid.
- Priority access must be given to renewable energy plants by grid operators.
- Priority dispatch of electricity from renewable sources is also an obligation.
- Grid operators can expand the grid if necessary and requested by plant operators.
As for renewable energy in the heating sector, there are a few policies available as well:
- District heating and cooling networks are managed at local levels
- Development of the installations needed for renewable energy sources in heating (RES-H) is supported by price-based mechanisms
- There is a tax regulation mechanism in place to promote using renewable energy sources for heating
Other general policies that concern renewable energy sources in Italy include:
- Certificates of installed energy plants are obligatory
- All new or refurbished buildings must integrate RES, with an extra 10% to the obligation level for public buildings
Ongoing Renewable Energy Projects In Italy.
There are many completed renewable energy projects within Italy, while others are still in the planning stages. However, available data for 2020 is all but non-existent because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but with 2021 giving us a new lease on life, some projects should soon begin to see daylight, such as that of Eni.
One of Europe’s largest oil company that has decided to diversify into renewables has received authorisation for a few renewable energy projects in Italy. The State Hydrocarbons Authority, also known as Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi or ENI for short, is building a 4.5 MW photovoltaic plant in Trecate to power their production site.
A subsidiary of ENI, called ENI New Energy, acquired three wind projects with a total capacity of 35 MW in the Puglia region of Italy. These will be the first wind projects undertaken by ENI in Italy, and it’s expected to produce approximately 81 GWh annually, avoiding around 33,400 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year. Construction is to begin in the third quarter of 2021.
When it comes to electricity generation, the National Plan for Energy and Climate (PNIEC) expects power generated by renewables to increase by 65% by 2030 compared to its current total.
Renewables are also scheduled to cover more than 55% of national electricity consumption, estimated at 337 TWh in 2030.
The plan is to concentrate on two renewables, wind energy and photovoltaic energy, with both renewables reaching more than twice the amount of installed power in 2030 than what is currently attainable. This means the increase in total installed power from renewables would go up to 75%.
Italy is not taking any pauses in its race to become the only contender for renewable energy innovations in Europe. It has beat its set targets twice in a row and continues to set higher standards for its sustainability. Hive Power is optimistic about the tremendous progress that can be made in Italy’s renewable energy journey with the inclusion of AI-powered smart grid technologies to promote more innovative solutions.
Fossil fuels have served their purpose wholly since their discovery, providing energy that has surpassed initial expectations. Still, over the years, with more innovations springing up around the world due to technological development, it has become apparent that the source of our all-important energy and its continued use is detrimental to the environment we so desperately need for continued existence. So we have turned to renewable energy.
This form of energy has a less negative environmental impact, is more sustainable, allows for the creation of a much-needed increase in employment. RE sources also help sovereign nations utilise their natural environment and resources to generate the power they need and acquire a self-sustaining income.
This post is a case study of one of these sovereign nations at the forefront of renewable energy innovations; Switzerland.
Interesting Facts About Energy in Switzerland
Although Switzerland has seen a significant surge in renewable energies such as ambient heat, biomass, wind power and solar power since 2005, their main energy sources hinge on oil, natural gas, nuclear power and hydropower.
- 50.6% of Switzerland’s energy comes from petroleum and fuel sources, making them the main sources, electricity follows with a bit above half of that percentage with 25%, then gas with 13.5% and finally wood at 4.4%
- Hydropower plants are the primary sources of electricity, nuclear power generates about 33.5%, and thermal power plants (that do not use renewable energy) generate 2.3%
- Many Swiss citizens have strong opposition to nuclear power, and they have derailed several nuclear power plant projects. An example is the case of Canton of Aargau (Kaiseraugst) when in 1975, public protests led to the abandonment of a nuclear power plant project.
- Presently, Switzerland has set goals for an energy transition. In the Energy Strategy 2050, one of its most ambitious aims is to phase-out nuclear power use.
- 59.9% of Switzerland’s total domestic electricity production comes from its 638 hydroelectric power plants.
- The largest dam in Switzerland is The 285-metre-high Grande-Dixence dam (canton of Valais) is the third-highest gravity dam in the world and the largest dam in Switzerland.
- As of 2015, the per capita electricity consumption in Switzerland was 7,033 kWh putting it higher than the 2014 rate for France, which stood at 6,233 kWh, Germany at 6,225 kWh and the Netherlands at 6,108 kWh. However, it maintained a lower rate than Norway, which stayed at 21,091 kWh, Finland at 14,477 kWh, Sweden at 12,597 kWh, Belgium at 7,225kWh and Austria at 7,081 kWh.
(Source: Discover Switzerland)
Growth Of Switzerland’s Renewable Energy Policies
The Energy Strategy 2050 emphasises ‘increased energy savings (energy efficiency), the expansion of hydropower and new renewable energies, and, if necessary, on fossil-fuel-based electricity production.’
The system Kostendeckende Einspeisevergütung (KEV), which is the feed-in tariff (FIT) and its predecessor, the Mehrkostenfinanzierung (MKF), as well as specified targets, are the key instigators for market demand in renewable energy. Even though the budget made available has been rather limited compared to market demand.
The institutional framework in Switzerland, which supports renewable energy, has developed to grow continually without major hitches. With support from the SwissEnergy programme, this process has brought together myriad stakeholders, promoted innovative ideas, providing pertinent information, pushed market deployments and supported collaboration across different sectors.
As soon as KEV was introduced, an objective for sharing renewable energy within the national energy mix by 2030 was also introduced, providing a concrete signal for renewable energy sector investors. Within the Swiss Energy Act was included the target of an annual additional renewable electricity generation of 5400 gigawatt-hours (GWh) by 2030, of which 2000 GWh are to come via hydropower. These long-term targets build upon an important element in the overall framework for RES.
The government implemented a set of measures due to The Energy Efficiency and Renewable Action Plans of 2008 to improve renewable energy technologies’ market conditions. These measures included:
- Financial support for the replacement of existing heating systems with renewable energy, for example, heat pumps and biomass through global budgets distributed to the cantons dedicated to supporting measures
- Revision of the building standard for new buildings
Ongoing Renewable Energy Projects in Switzerland and Expert Projections
The world’s first high-altitude floating solar power plant is currently operating in the Swiss Alps. According to experts in the field, this technology could become a major part of the photovoltaic industry worldwide. Photovoltaic energy is produced by turning sunlight into electricity, and in 2013 Guillaume Fuchs got the idea to spearhead this high-altitude floating solar power plant in an alpine environment.
According to SwissInfo.ch, “The solar plant at Lac des Toules consists of 1,400 panels, laid on 36 floating structures made of aluminium and polyethene plastic anchored to the bottom of the lake. Current production exceeds 800,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year, which is the equivalent of consumption for about 220 households”. Constructing a photovoltaic power plant in a human-made lake at very high altitudes means that the weather conditions are harsher and more intense with a thinner atmosphere and extreme UV rays. More electricity is generated thanks to the two-sided panels that capture the sun rays above and the reflected sun rays from the water’s surface.
Experts believe that floating photovoltaic stations such as this one are the future of solar energy because there is less need for unwarranted land use. There will also be a reduction in the competition between agriculturists, construction companies and the renewable energy sector regarding land. The water placement also leads to increased yield capabilities because it cools the panels as they sit effortlessly, extending their lifespan altogether.
Per year, nuclear power plants in Switzerland produce about 25 TWh of electricity. For the government to replace that amount of power, approximately 25,000 football fields would need to be covered with photovoltaic panels to cater to consumer needs, hence the need for more innovation.
We, at Hive Power, believe that the use of innovations plays a huge role in driving the renewable energy sector and technologies. Our Smart Grid Analytics solution offers industry participants the capacity to manage electric energy and electric grids, using data-driven AI-powered solutions, efficiently.
When the EU created the Renewable Energy Directive (RED), they set targets and policies, both long and short term, to drastically reduce the volume of greenhouse gas emissions. The targets and policies became binding on all EU countries that were signatory to the directive. The obvious fact that some of these countries had already set individual targets on curbing fossil fuel use and its residual effects was no deterrent.
As a union of countries willing to work together for a common goal, it would be expected that there should be cooperation whether in varying degrees or forms, to meet set targets. These have been made available in the Renewable Energy Directive under Cooperative Mechanisms as a way of ensuring that there is cooperation on various levels. Especially when concerned with countries that can’t meet their set targets because of one overarching developmental or environmental factor, while others meet and exceed their targets with little hindrance from said factors.
For example, a landlocked country will not be able to create as much hydroelectric power for consumption as one that has several instrumental water sources at its disposal. In the same way, a country that doesn’t get as much sunlight for solar energy production as much as one that does, due to weather variations, will have to rely on the greater producer or another means of creating clean energy to meet its targets and boost the overall cooperative advantage of the EU.
This doesn’t mean any EU country is lacking in every area where they can find renewable energy sources (RES); on the contrary, all EU countries have a host of renewable energy sources at their disposal.
The Cooperation Mechanisms enumerated under the Renewable Energy Directive are:
- Statistical transfers
- Joint projects
- Joint support schemes
As explained previously, not all EU countries have equal RES. However, under article six of the Renewable Energy Directive, countries are encouraged to cooperate and help boost the renewable energy statistics of low-performing countries to meet individual targets jointly. This should only be down if they have reached their specified targets before the required timeframe.
With statistical transfers, countries can transfer specified renewable energy amounts (statistics only) to other countries. This doesn’t necessarily mean they will transfer RES but the statistics that spill over, you can see an example in the cooperation between Lithuania and Luxembourg.
National targets given by RED were to be reached at the ending of 2020. As of 2015, Lithuania had reached a target of 25.75% overshooting it’s designated 23% target while Luxembourg had only achieved 5% of its mandatory 11%. Both countries essentially reached an agreement to be the first pair to utilise the cooperation mechanism of statistical transfer to propel Luxembourg to its specified target by 2020. (European Commission Info)
Let us not forget that the RED sets compulsory national targets for each member state and statistical transfer can only happen after the cooperating countries have informed the European Commission. There is available flexibility with this particular mechanism to incentivise individual countries to exceed targets for some fee while others reach targets at lower costs, in essence, promoting cooperation while achieving individual targets.
These projects specifically target electricity or heating and cooling and can be extended to non-EU member states.
According to a briefing by the European Environment Agency on Cross-border Cooperation on Renewable Energy, there are at least three outstanding benefits to using joint projects as a cooperation mechanism.
The core benefits are as follows:
- More efficient and cheaper electricity generation
- Increased certainty in the energy market
- Open access to new resources and opportunities
Other contributions of joint project cooperation are enumerated as:
- The integration of the EU internal energy market
- The harmonisation of national legislative and policy approaches across the EU Member States
- The achievement of EU energy targets
Applying these benefits and contributions will play up a solid economic case for the use of joint projects by member states of the EU to hit their renewable energy targets and create a better economic climate, with reduced overall costs and satisfied citizens.
You can see an example with the cooperation between Denmark and Germany during an auction for electricity prices for solar PV in both countries. The bids were historically low, helping Denmark cut the estimated amount of aid it would have had to release to itself for the project had it been on an individual basis.
Benefits can transcend economics to levels of:
- Cooperation involving common markets
- Access to locations outside of individual borders
- Increase certainly in safe trading conditions within these markets
- Technological innovation
- Shared energy policy creations, and;
- An overall level playing field for an integrated energy market (European Environment Agency)
JOINT SUPPORT SCHEMES
This cooperation mechanism differs from the joint project’s mechanism in the sense that it deals with any renewable energy production between member states. That means it is not limited to electricity or cooling and heating.
Both member states share responsibilities and result in RES production and distribution to meet their RED targets together.
The key ways to do this is through:
- Feed-in tariffs (FIT) which are fixed electricity prices paid to the producers of each unit of renewable energy injected into the electricity grid
- Feed-in premiums (FIP), which are the premiums gotten from sold electricity by renewable energy producers
- Auction mechanism where producers of renewable energy bid their lowest acceptable prices to develop renewable energy projects
- Quota obligations which see to the realisation of a certain proportion of renewable energy consumption from member states
The cooperation mechanisms set out by the RED to aid member states in achieving their renewable energy targets are not as yet widely used despite hoping to promote essential cooperation. Only a few projects proffer ready examples, while most are still in testing phases. The good thing is that there is available room for member states to work together in creating a balance and level field of play for further explorations and expansion of ideas.
The Renewable Energy Directive (RED) of 2009 by the European Union (EU) was to be the first time the EU would set obligatory targets on a national level to implement some recommended measures. Reasons for this directive were as follows:
- To increase the use of renewable energy and reduce the emission of greenhouse gases,
- To promote the security of energy supply, and
- To boost employment and regional development as well as technical development and innovation.
The initial target given by this directive, was for the EU to gain at least 20% of its energy needs through renewable energy sources by 2020, and for all its member countries to guarantee that at least 10% of their transport fuels originate from renewable energy sources. For the most part, putting forth a directive can be said to be a step in the right direction but have these measures been met? To what degree? Can they be sustained or improved on?
Decarbonizing the entire EU economy by between 80% to 90% by 2050 is the long-term objective, but breaking it down to reasonable action plans with checks and balances is one reason RED I and RED II were implemented. To understand this, we will need to look at key categories to help us answer our myriad questions such as the relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, added value, and lessons learned.
What Is The Relevance Of The EU Renewable Energy Directive?
The key factors of renewable energy are that their sources are clean. This means that these energies do not produce greenhouse gases responsible for climate change or increase pollutant emissions. They are and remain inexhaustible. They are different from fossil fuels because they are diverse, abundant, and can be used anywhere in the world.
Prices of renewable energy sources (RES) are also on the opposite side of the spectrum compared to fossil fuels making them a sensible alternative for governments, businesses, and individuals alike. Moreover, both wind and solar energy are showing a constant trend of cost reduction.
For the EU, renewable energy is important because of all these reasons and for meeting long-term goals and keeping up as a forerunner in the sustainable development sector.
As far as the 27 member states follow the measures spelled out in the articles given in the Renewable Energy Directive, they should notice a surge in regional development, technical development, innovation, and reduced carbon emissions, at the very least. (At this time, it is uncertain as to what stance the United Kingdom will take after BREXIT regarding the RED, but they are still included as a member state for this article).
Have The Outlined Measured Of The EU Renewable Energy Directive Been Effective?
The Renewable Energy Directive appears to have increasingly merged the development of renewable energy in member states. There is an observation that the overall target at the EU level for member states and subsequent targets on the national level, which remains legally binding, have promoted national action to an acceptable degree, with member states continuously vying to meet the national target.
The only downside is those states who have to control overly progressive outcomes to remain within the given targets.
However, not all countries or member States are the same, especially regarding GDP per capita or their RES potential. To create a cohesive balance, targets are set according to economic capabilities as a factor to lower renewable targets. This has, in turn, advanced political and social support for renewable energy policies in these countries.
The major controversy from the get-go was the 10% target set for the transport sector under biofuels. Despite the criteria given by the directive, concerns have arisen as to how sustainable it can be since the effectiveness only allows room for calculations of reduction in emissions of greenhouse gasses and not the degree of usefulness of newer renewable energy sources such as biomethane and hydrogen. These new sources, and indeed new methodologies, should be considered when counting towards the 10% transport target.
So, to the big question:
Has The EU Renewable Energy Directive Produced Results?
By mandating all member states to be legally bound by the Renewable Energy Directive, the following contributions have been highlighted:
- Reduction in the cost of renewable energy technologies
- Market failures in the innovation sector have been addressed, successfully
- Binding national targets have allowed for a reliable RED framework giving a positive effect to public authorities and private stakeholders
- The limited administrative burden on member states
Some pitfalls have also been highlighted as:
- Lack of cooperation between member states due to individual renewable energy targets not concerned with the RED
- Difference in implementation
As far as efficiency, the articles espoused within the Renewable Energy Directive show that it is on track until further deliberations on directives make room for more recent considerations. What makes it so efficient is the binding targets on all member states, which reduces the risk of limited deployment or development in the renewable energy sector.
Other Added Value
Continuing assessment of the implementation of policies is a strong argument for the added value of the Renewable Energy Directive. Member states aren’t left to their whims under this legally binding directive.
The subsequent targets given to member states are introduced on time to ensure that the national targets are met, without a hitch. This serves to spotlight a clear framework through all sectors of the RED, leading to greater discipline in implementation and rarely a deviation from the established plan.
An intensified ambition to increase RES production and the need to stay in line with the RED from individual member states has also proven to be an effective means of implementing the renewable energy policies.
It has become obvious that close monitoring of the binding directive promotes a certain level of cooperation, even if it is not on an individual basis. An increase in reporting obligations from member states specifying whether targets are/are not reached, results in greater discipline from all quarters.
What Lessons Can Be Learned So Far?
Several factors work in tandem to effectively make the Renewable Energy Directive work within the EU, and no single factor is more significant than the other. It is the availability of cumulative activities from all sectors that determine the success, or lack thereof, of the RED in member states.
Components that have and can continue to help the RED succeed include:
- Energy policies that reflect a commitment to the directive
- Fiscal measures to encourage investments
- Financial support
- Technological development
Solar power leads the way as the most popular form of renewable energy in the European Market. With a 36% increase in installations from 2017 to 2018, the adoption of solar technology is on the rise. This trend can be attributed to the drive to meet the EU 2020 targets.
EU 2020 Renewable Energy Directive
In 2009, the EU states set targets to generate at least 20% of their energy from renewable energy by 2020. In this move, the EU defined various support schemes for member countries to cooperate in achieving their targets.
The Cooperation Mechanism is one of the EU 2020 support schemes. It employs three approaches to help members meet the Renewable Energy targets. These include;
- Joint Projects
- Joint Support Schemes
- Statistical Transfers
- The Joint Projects mechanism allows two or more EU countries to co-fund a renewable energy project. They can then share the power generated.
- The Joint Support Scheme mechanism involves the development of schemes such as a common feed-in-tariff. The programme would promote the production of renewables in two or more EU countries.
- Statistical Transfers were designed to level the playing field. Naturally, renewable energy resources are not equally distributed across Europe. As such, member states can buy shares of a renewable project from a resource-rich country. The energy shares are deducted from the producing country and added to the supporting country’s energy portfolio.
These cooperation mechanisms are deployed on a macro level. They involve major policymakers, national energy regulation, transmission companies and energy producers. The concept of working together to meet renewable energy targets has trickled down to the community level. Here, Energy Communities have been formed to help regular citizens to own a share of a solar energy project.
Regulatory Victory for Energy Communities
Following the Paris Agreement, the EU began reviewing its energy policy framework. This framework would facilitate Europe’s transition to low-carbon clean energy. Between 2016 and 2019, the EU developed and refined the Clean Energy for all Europeans Package.
The Clean Energy Package contains specific elements that promote the rights of energy consumers. The new regulations support the generation, storage and sale of energy by individuals. They are especially beneficial for the growth of energy communities in Europe.
What is A Solar Energy Community?
Energy communities are societies that come together and pool resources for the co-ownership of solar energy projects. They can be made up of individuals, small businesses, companies, municipalities and cooperatives, among others. They allow average people to own a share of a solar energy plant.
People mainly join energy communities to reduce their utility bills. They are also interested in participating in the renewable energy revolution. As individuals, most energy community members face several limitations to build solar projects. These include lack of capital, space and property.
Many participants of energy communities live in rental homes. As such, they cannot install home solar panels or benefit from the incentives of solar affords homeowners.
How Do Energy Communities Work?
Energy communities can be structured in various ways depending on the region’s regulatory landscape. In some cases, the community members live near the project site. These members can consume the energy generated directly, which is the typical setup in off-grid locations characterized by mini-grids.
However, in most parts of Europe and North America, an extensive grid network is already established. Here, energy communities can finance new grid-connected solar power plants. Members then earn net metering or solar credits, and they can use these credits to reduce their monthly utility bills based on the amount of electricity generated and the member’s share in the energy community.
Solar is attractive for energy communities because it is a low-cost solution that is scalable and readily available. The communities calculate their solar credits through a Virtual Net Metering (VNM) system. The VNM enables you to earn Net Metering Credits from a solar energy system that you didn’t connect to. As long as your grid provider buys the energy generated by the solar plant, you can earn Net Metering Credits.
Are Energy Communities Good For Solar Projects?
Energy communities create an avenue for new players to participate in the transition to clean energy. The European housing statistics indicate that approximately 42% of Europeans lived in apartment blocks in 2017. Meaning that, regardless of financial capacity, almost half the population don’t own roofs to install rooftop solar projects.
Through energy communities, people who were conventionally left out can now acquire solar energy assets. Here are various ways in which the energy communities can lead to higher solar sales.
Faster Transition to Clean Energy
Unlike the conventional solar home system format, energy communities support a more active uptake of solar energy. Energy communities connect multiple customers per project. While the power generated may not be for direct self-consumption, each member of the community has a share in it.
As you approach utility-scale, solar energy community projects have the advantage of quick adoption. These systems acquire land rights and social acceptance much faster than typical utility-scale solar projects. This pattern is because most of the decision-makers in the community have a stake in the project. The energy community members are usually well informed about the project, allowing the developers to focus on the implementation of the project rather than gaining social acceptance.
Overcomes Grid Limitations
In remote or rural settings, the national grid may not reach every potential customer. The cost of grid expansion is also high. Also, the challenges of upgrading weak networks for demand-side management can limit the connectivity of new projects.
Energy communities can employ smart mini-grids to connect consumers. This step avoids straining the existing grid system. The mini-grids can also connect and feed solar power to the grid directly. High-quality mini-grids with adequate net metering infrastructure reduce losses and maximize the revenue for grid-connected solar projects.
Improved Energy Storage Management
It is challenging to ensure the uninterrupted supply of electricity on the national grid. Energy communities can facilitate Community Energy Storage (CES) solutions. Collective energy storage solutions are easier to manage and maintain than in individual homes.
Energy storage is a vital component of solar energy systems, and they reduce the load and reliance on the grid at night while community solar plants with integrated energy storage provide well-balanced uninterrupted power supply options.
Cost-Effective Solar Solutions
Energy communities enable more people to overcome the investment barriers involved with solar energy projects. The high initial investment costs are among the most significant obstacles to the integration of solar projects.
Energy communities allow members to share the cost of developing a solar project. This action lowers the entry cost for each individual and makes the project more attractive.
Development of Smart Grid Technology Markets
The new EU energy policy encourages the development of decentralized energy generation. In the past, independent power producers were either small individual homes or utility-scale solar projects. Energy communities create a demand for innovative smart technologies in the solar energy space.
Energy communities need dynamic digitized solutions to monitor their solar power systems. These solutions are necessary for data analysis, system optimization and report generation for the energy community members. Advanced analytical solutions are also required for net-metered systems that generate solar credits for the community’s shareholders.
The deployment of energy communities creates an opportunity for unmatched growth of solar energy in Europe. Enabling people who live in flats to participate and co-own solar projects almost doubles the potential solar investors in the EU. Integration of energy communities can accelerate the efficient development of solar projects across Europe.