Energy communities draft bill submitted to parliament

An energy ministry draft bill for the establishment of energy communities, promising decentralized, locally generated energy solutions, was submitted to Greek Parliament for ratification last night.

The initiative is intended to encourage enterprises, agencies, local administrations as well as private users to rely on renewable energy sources as it will enable electricity consumers to also become producers. Their output could either be sold to the grid or offset with electricity drawn from the grid.

Energy communities are made possible by the ability of renewable energy sources to provide decentralized electricity production, as well as by tools such as net metering and virtual net metering.

Net metering enables electricity consumers who generate their own power from an eligible on-site facility and deliver it to local distribution facilities to offset the electric energy provided by the utility during an applicable billing period. Virtual net metering links scattered enterprises to just one electricity power meter to offset the cost of electricity supplied by the power utility with electricity produced by these various enterprises for the grid.

Small and medium-sized enterprises will be able to reduce their energy costs while private consumers will also be in a position to cut their energy costs.

The bill for energy communities also promises to enable municipalities and regional governments to establish localized energy policies for independent management of issues such as energy poverty or promotion of electric vehicle usage.

Energy communities will, according to the draft bill, be permitted to operate as both profit-seeking enterprises and non-profit organizations. In the case of the latter category, any resulting profits will not be distributed to energy community members but utilized to fund new projects approved by respective community councils.

Energy communities will be able to produce, sell or self-consume electricity and thermal energy produced by RES facilities such as wind and PV unitsm or biogas and biomass units.

The establishment of energy communities will require at least five members, three members if concerning local government agencies, and just two members if these agencies are located on islands. Collaborations between two local government agencies will require require an additional member.

Locality will also be factored in. At least 51 percent of an energy community’s members will need to be associated with the community’s base. A term limiting the control of each energy community member to 20 percent has also been included in the draft bill to avoid centralization issues. In the case of local government agencies, this upper limit has been set at 40 percent.

Energy communities, also known as energy cooperatives, are already established in countries such as Belgium, Germany, Spain and Denmark.

Ten turbines contributing to Coopenhagen’s Middelgrunden wind park belong to the 8,552-member Middelgrunden energy community.

Greece’s energy ministry has already received positive feedback on the local energy community prospects. Potential participants such as hoteliers have already expressed a strong interest to make the most of the set-up’s benefits. Highlighting the positive outlook, a regional government council in the Peloponnese recently – well ahead of last night’s tabling of the related draft bill – voted overwhelmingly in favor of the establishment of what could become Greece’s first energy community.