Energy communities: Solutions for strengthening renewables-based self-production of electricity by citizens in lignite areas

P R E S S  R E L E A S E

In recent years, self-production through energy communities has emerged as a key pillar of the just transition of Greece’s lignite areas. Especially in the aftermath of the energy crisis, an increasing number of citizens is collectively turning to renewables, recognising their benefits for both households and the environment. However, the official data show that the lack of grid space is leading to an increasing number of rejections connection requests for self-production projects by energy communities. This is despite the fact that significant EU and national Just Transition funds are available to support energy communities and self-production projects which use renewables to meet own electricity needs.

In this framework, the new report by The Green Tank in collaboration with Stelios Psomas, an energy and environmental advisor, titled “Supporting Citizen Energy Communities in the Lignite Areas Via a Combination of Photovoltaics and Battery Energy Storage Systems”, examines the potential of overcoming the barrier of grid space shortage in order to meet the electricity needs of residential consumers living in lignite areas through energy communities’ renewable projects.

Mapping current and future electricity demand from residential consumers, the analysis proposes concrete measures which optimises the use of the grid. It further shows that the creation of energy communities and the installation of 272-300 MW of photovoltaic stations can swiftly cover the needs of 245,000 residential consumers in Greece’s lignite areas. To this end, two scenarios were examined: (a) installing photovoltaic systems alone which requires a total investment of €207-228 million and (b) installing photovoltaics combined with battery storage systems which provide grid balancing services, thus, contributing to the mitigation of the electricity space shortage; a scenario that requires a total investment of €370-408 million. These projects can be financed by the EU Just Transition Fund or national resources supporting the just transition of lignite areas through revenues from the auctioning of greenhouse gas emission allowances.

The strong interest of citizens in the lignite regions for collective self-production through energy communities cannot be ignored. The implementation of such projects is feasible by combining photovoltaic systems with storage, while the necessary financial resources to meet the needs of citizens and overcome the lack of grid space are available,” said Nikos Mantzaris, policy analyst at The Green Tank. “The Just Development Transition Plan already provides for similar support for Local Governments, and this action must be generalised for all energy communities aiming at covering their own electricity needs.”

“A relevant legislative regulation should provide that the new electrical space created from grid expansion and the upgrading/innovation plans will be allocated primarily to self-production projects and energy communities using virtual net metering”, said Stelios Psomas. “State guarantees should also be provided to energy communities using the virtual net metering tool, so that they can obtain funding from banks.”

 The report by The Green Tank titled “Supporting Citizen Energy Communities in the Lignite Areas Via a Combination of Photovoltaics and Battery Energy Storage Systems” is available here.