His concern for the sustainability of the planet has been a constant that has grown throughout this 21st century. Nations, through various meetings such as the Paris Accords or the adoption of plans such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) for 2030, are moving in that direction. After that, these principles are transferred to the business fabric and society in general. Consumption is one of the proposals that force has been gaining in recent times when adopting these assumptions contained in the ODS, mainly in point 7 where it speaks of ensuring access to affordable energy, safe, sustainable, and modern for all. We speak of energy self-consumption when we generate the energy we consume, for example, with photovoltaic panels installed in our home, business, or company.
According to data from the Spanish Photovoltaic Union (UNEF), Spain installed 596 megawatts (MW) of photovoltaic power for self-consumption in 2020, 30% more than in 2019. Most of the new power, 56%, corresponds to the industrial sector, 23% to the commercial sector, and 19% to the domestic sector, which has experienced unprecedented growth after it was 10% in 2019.
Behind this growth, there are several reasons. The fact that the installation of photovoltaic panels represents a saving of up to 30% of the variable part of the electricity bill (as stated by the Unión Espanola Fotovoltaica, UNEF) is, undoubtedly, an attractive incentive for the consumer. Likewise, it should not be forgotten that this energy, in addition to being respectful with the environment, provides benefits to the electrical system (by avoiding, for example, the losses that occur between the electricity-generating installation and the point of consumption), fighting against energy poverty (especially in its shared modality) and implies the creation of direct, qualified and local employment.
Despite the many advantages that this type of sustainable energy provides and that more and more people are betting on it, it is important to specify that it is still necessary to combine this distributed generation with the centralized one. As Julieta Maresca, Repsol’s manager of Distributed Generation points out, there are large consumers who will not always have a nearby distributed energy source. A mixed system is needed to respond to the current energy needs of society. That is, for now, only that mix can guarantee that the service arrives and that it does so optimally, but the Spanish electricity system is changing, and distributed generation is beginning to grow strongly.
THE DEMAND FOR A SUSTAINABLE SOLUTION
Administrations, companies, and individuals are aligned in achieving a more sustainable energy consumption that generates fewer emissions. Most of the autonomous communities want to promote self-consumption and are proposing various subsidies for people who bet on this type of energy proposal. The Valencian Community, Catalonia, or the Basque Country, for example, are some of those that promote the creation of energy communities through self-consumption and therefore savings in emissions. And in the specific case of solar panel installations, the Community of Madrid, for example, has announced an aid of up to 30%, with 15,000 euros being the maximum eligible limit per installation.
And thanks to the government decree that, in 2018, repealed the sun tax, it has been made easier for consumers to have the right to become self-consumers of renewable energy. In this sense, those who live in a single-family house or a townhouse, for example, through the implementation of this model, can benefit from 100% renewable energy.
As stated by Jose Antonio Gonzalez, manager of Repsol’s Individual Photovoltaic Self-consumption and Energy Services, The photovoltaic installation is being the most demanded self-consumption solution because it is the simplest and most profitable renewable alternative to the extent that companies are offering solutions global plans that include both the project and legalization of the installation to services such as the management of subsidies and tax deductions, different financing alternatives, and compensation of surpluses, among others.
Repsol is a clear example of a company that has opted for this model through its Solidify project. A comprehensive self-consumption solution that, in addition to reducing emissions, makes it possible for its customers to see their electricity bill lowered and to be remunerated for the solar energy they produce do not consume and pour into the grid. But what happens when the type of property does not allow individual installation or when someone cannot assume the initial investment in solar panels alone? For these cases, there is the possibility of shared self-consumption.
It is a solution that was born, above all, to respond to the demand of those who live in cities, where single-family homes are not as common as on the outskirts of cities and in those cases where there is only no roof property, but the initial investment required to install the plates cannot be assumed or if they need flexibility because for example, they plan to move in a few years. In this way, all the homes that belong to the same solar community have the possibility of consuming clean and cheaper energy. The residents of different blocks of flats, for example, can connect to a solar community, which produces energy through photovoltaic solar panels installed on the roof of a building in the area, and thus share the energy generated there. In this way, they could benefit from this energy, even if they did not have a roof on their property where to place the solar panels.
This new model of energy consumption could be understood, according to Maresca, as an evolution of the collaborative economy that empowers the consumer and allows them to save on their electricity bill and consume efficiently and sustainably. With this ambition, projects such as Repsol Solmatch have been born, in which solar communities generate energy from photovoltaic panels installed on the roofs of buildings (called Roofers, from English roof) so that homes (called Matchers, from English match, connect) can connect and enjoy 100% renewable electricity. The only requirement is to be located within a radius of 500 meters, due to regulatory limitations. Repsol already has 80 solar communities, which translates into 6,800 potential homes and 1,430 tons of CO 2 avoided per year. Data show that sustainability is a social demand and that the future of energy is directed towards a renewable model, of citizen participation and distribution.