New report explores flexibility services for energy co-operatives

Case studies demonstrate how co-ops have experimented with emerging technology that can enable a more dynamic grid

A report from – the European federation of citizen energy co-operatives has set out new opportunities for energy co-ops to use ‘flexibility services’ to integrate wind and solar energy into the energy system.

The report uses case studies from green energy co-ops Energie Samen in Holland and Som Energia in Catalonia, Spain as they trialled flexibility services. It explores how demand-side flexibility services and digitalisation may support a more dynamic energy grid that uses diverse renewable energy resources.

Because wind and solar energy are variable resources, they need flexibility when it comes to being integrated into the energy system. The report shows that, with the help of digital technologies, a set of new roles and activities are emerging to achieve a decentralised system.

“Demand side flexibility represents a whole set of services that can support many purposes and can be the basis for different business models,” says the report.

Methods of achieving this flexibility include using pricing and other market incentives to encourage customers to shift consumption times, reducing energy waste, building aggregate energy reserves through collectives of citizens, and the balancing consumption with domestic production through heat pumps and solar.

“These different models will become key in the coming years for both co-operatives and any other electricity market actor,” the report says. “They will require co-operatives to develop a new sets of knowhow and technologies which could be a challenge for grassroots organisations.”

But the co-op model brings advantages in this process, it adds. “Direct involvement with their members … provides them with a key asset and puts them into a unique position to further explore these new business models.

“The further development of new technologies, services and related platforms could make the tools that are required to look into such models
accessible and affordable.

“To enhance energy co-operatives in demand side flexibility models,
it is important that technology and service providers better understand the ability and dynamics that lays within their co-operative nature.”

It is important that energy co-operatives fully understand the potential of these new business opportunities, and the technology they need to engage in them, says REScoop – which will “continue its role of facilitator
and engage its members in exploring the new roles co-operatives can play in favour of decarbonised and democratic energy system”.

You can download the report here.