Biomass-plant-in-Gussing Biomass gasification plant in Gussing, Austria

Energy communities is emerging as one of the hot topics of the 2020s in the energy world.  This has been accelerated by the current Covid-19 crisis, which has made the need to find local solutions to global problems even more pronounced.  Many of the discussions around community energy are centred around electricity - but are we missing an opportunity by not talking about the benefits of a multi-vector approach which integrates electricity together with heat (and ultimately other vectors like mobility and hydrogen)? In this blog, we will focus on the opportunities for heat to be at the heart of energy communities.

The transition from “old heat” to “new heat” is making a community energy approach to heat more and more appropriate – and potentially more valuable.  We believe that working directly with communities on local heat decarbonisation strategies will be critical to the success of heating product and service providers in the future.  Energy communities with heat at their heart are not just the future – they are already here, and they are a growing opportunity not to be missed by the energy and heating industries.

How is the transition to “new heat” driving energy communities?

A potent mix of developments in the heating industry is creating fertile ground for energy communities to flourish.  Here are 5 heating market trends which are driving energy communities' implementation: 

So what do energy communities mean for the future of the heating market? We believe that energy communities will be a catalyst for change in the heating market – in terms of products, services and business models. Through engaging consumers, placing them front and centre of the decarbonisation drive, and giving them an attractive proposition, energy communities overcome some of the biggest barriers to decarbonisation of heat.  Energy communities are democratic, voluntary and do not need to be created by big, faceless corporations or imposed by government – in fact they do not even have to have centralised assets; they can link individual assets in a smart way to optimise heat and power, providing customer choice and value.  This strong customer proposition is critical to enabling the transition to new energy – and new heat - to happen. 

And what are the opportunities for the heating and energy industry? There are clearly existing and growing opportunities for industry engagement and partnership with communities in low carbon heating.  Whether sharing and trading heat between properties, contributing to optimisation and flexibility in electricity grids or enabling value to be captured in multi-vector systems, heating can be a highly valuable component of an energy community. And the policy framework is tilting in favour of community engagement too - two key European directives (the Renewable Energy Directive for Renewable Energy Communities, and the Electricity Market Directive for Citizen Energy Communities) are good foundations for a growing sector.  In our view, the industry risks missing out on opportunities if it lets the energy communities boat sail without heat as an integral part.

For more information, get in touch, and see Delta-EE’s whitepaper for further reading on how energy communities can fund the energy transition.