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The roots of energy communities: sharing is all

The Domaine de la Source is a luxury residence of 25 apartments deployed in the Nordic ski resort of Villard de Lans. The building is equipped with a 45 kW peak solar roof and the production of heating and domestic hot water is centralized and produced by heat pumps and electric boilers. The car park is cleared of snow in winter with an electric net. The accommodations are not all permanently occupied, some are only occupied 15 days a year.

Difficulties and Motivations for the establishment of an Energy Community

This brief description helps to quickly understand the pitfalls of setting up collective self-consumption:

1. Tenants may seem unconcerned with energy and environmental issues,

2. With high vacancy rate, or rented apartments it is difficult to mobilize a community,

3. The modest saving (€300/year) of setting up collective self-consumption is not very motivating,

However, during the extraordinary general meeting of January 21, 2023, it was unanimously decided to create an energy community.

The main motivation that emerged from the discussions is the desire to immediately enter into the energy transition and above all to experiment with the hope of reducing energy consumption. It seems that the participants have taken the measure of the essential changes in today’s world. Dependence on fossil fuels, a constraint of our modern way of life, is being challenged to enter post-modernity.

The second motivation is to be able to build a community that extends beyond the building to spread over the entire village. There is a kind of pride in being the first to develop such technology.

Another motivation that has not been fully affirmed is the desire to strive for energy autonomy in a local loop. This demand for “local” is also affirmed for food, buying from the local farm rather than from the supermarket.

Finally, one of the stated desires is the desire to optimize the production of domestic hot water, the first issue of energy waste in this building. Perhaps even self-consumption, the energy community is a pretext to first optimize the energy efficiency of Source Domain systems.

The question of autonomy is underlying in several projects of energy communities, behind autonomy we can hear the will of a resumption of the control of its consumption by the participants.

In addition, although not directly explained, the implementation of energy sharing is likely to develop social ties within the condominium itself. This need was felt during the general assembly.

However, there are still pitfalls; the first is the termination of the current energy sales contract. The surplus is resold to EDF under a purchase obligation, the breach of the contract entails a financial penalty which must be accepted by all the co-owners.

An Important Issue

The challenges of the success of this project are of several kinds; First of all, the housing stock of mountain resorts is 350,000 homes in the French Alps. Implementing self-consumption or demand response technologies would significantly reduce energy consumption at national and European level.

Global warming is having a major impact on the economy of ski resorts, which are all in the process of reinventing their future without snow. The bet on renewable energies has already been acted upon by several major resorts in the current transformation.

Energy has become predominant, vital and our economic model has been based on fossil fuels available at all times. The intermittency of renewable energies and the act of self-consumption reconnects man to nature and the climate. This profound change is at the heart of energy communities.

Written by Michel Meunier (Albedo)