The project, carried out by Enel Foundation in partnership with the Italian association Legambiente, aimed at exploring the role that Energy Communities can play in achieving a deep innovation for the Italian energy system also preserving high quality of service.
‘Energy Communities’ are a legal entity, members of which are individuals, SMEs or local authorities. Their primary purpose is to provide environmental, economic or social community benefits to stakeholders, members or for the local area in which it operates. This study is the result of an in-depth analysis carried out by the research team on the details of the regulatory framework for Energy Communities adopted by the Italian government, supported by structured interaction with distinguished stakeholders such as the Regulatory Authority for Energy, Networks and Environment (ARERA), the Ministry of Economic Development, sectoral players such GSE and RSE, representatives of DSOs, and academic scholars.
The project explores and analyses the different forms of self-consumption – i.e. one-to-many and many-to many – and in particular at the Energy Communities as defined by the Renewable Energy Directive 2 2018/2001 and the Internal Energy Market Directive 2019/944. The study considered the geographical extension of Energy Communities as a potential driver for their success, and analyzed possible incentive schemes – i.e. shared energy vs produced energy – to be put in place to maximise performances and benefits of the Energy Communities in the Italian context. With respect to ‘shared energy’, the limited dimension of the maximum perimeter of the Communities in the experimental phase – the secondary substation – was identified as a possible limit to the development of the configurations.
In this respect, the study analyzed opportunities and risks connected to various hypotheses to extend the geographical extension of the Energy Communities: either keeping the “electric criteria”, and extending the perimeter to the primary substation level, or adopting an “administrative/geographical approach”, taking into account parameters such as zip code, provinces, distance from the plant, conventional geographical area around the primary substation. Regarding the incentives criteria and mechanisms, the analysis focused on different possible models, finding out that the scheme adopted during the Italian experimental phase – the incentive to shared energy – was more in line with the objectives that led to the introduction of the Energy Communities model, first at the EU level and then at the national one.
The results of the project were publicly discussed with public authorities and private actors, pushing the Italian debate toward greater understanding of the opportunities related to the Energy Communities, and encouraging key stakeholders to embrace concrete policies to boost their development.