The socio-economic barriers

by Paul Tobin [GECO Global]

Contributors: Christophe Dromacque [GECO], Christina Papadimitriou [UCY], Sotiris Tsakanikas [VERD], Luis Viguer [ETRA I+D], Fenareti Lampathaki [Suite 5]

The techno-centric approach to R&D projects in the energy sector has left the crucial factor of socioeconomics underappreciated. This is demonstrated by the existence of terms such as social acceptance. This term implies that the goal of an R&D project is to find a way for society to accept the technological changes that are to be implemented for the energy transition.

In truth, the transition to a decentralised renewable energy system requires the participation of an increased number of stakeholders, end-users and citizens, as well as consideration for local context and societal structure. Consequently, it is imperative to recognise the importance of the social and economic aspects such as the social policy and dynamics, the related costs and benefits of a new system to each individual stakeholder as well as their behaviours, motivations and attitudes towards the energy system and the impending transition.

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Having a strong focus on the socioeconomic factors is key when identifying the potential barriers to innovation, and this is the methodology that was adopted in the SYNERGY project. To ensure no stone was left unturned, a granular approach to investigating the socioeconomic barriers was undertaken to identify specific barriers. Past research has often fallen into the trap of looking at the socioeconomic barriers through too broad a scope. For example, the barrier of public opposition to RES has been reduced to NIMBYism, when in fact there are several motivations beyond NIMBY which include issues such as health, landscape, scale of development and participation, to name but a few. Similarly, consumer motivations should not be restricted to a preference for lowering costs and maximising monetary benefits, although this is likely true, it only scratches the surface of true attitudes and motivations.

Exploring the socioeconomic barriers in SYNERGY comprised of conducting a literature review of existing research to identify all the relevant obstacles. This expedition into the socioeconomic landscape revealed a variety of potential barriers rooted in psychological factors, needs and abilities and issues related to the energy system.

Discovering all the relevant obstacles is informative at a high-level, however, bringing the knowledge to the ground level is crucial for the success of an R&D project. In SYNERGY, by presenting the barriers to real market actors involved in pilot sites implementing the SYNERGY solutions, we could clarify each individual barrier’s potential impact. More specifically, the research undertaken as part of SYNERGY revealed that the biggest concerns experienced by stakeholders related to:

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1.No consumer awareness of benefits related to innovation, and the opportunities of cost-saving and revenue generation.

2.Neglecting the value of system flexibility in favour of a centralised system.

3.The exclusion of certain societal groups, such as the elderly and other vulnerable consumers or those with limited access to services.

The barriers that are considered the most impactful are important to identify but equally important is not to assume these barriers are relevant for various environments in which the innovation is implemented. A closer look at the most impactful barriers reveals that the effect of these barriers varies across the different pilot sites in SYNERGY.

The quantitative investigation informs us which are the most impactful barriers and how they affect different regions/pilot sites. To build on this, follow-up interviews were conducted to develop a deeper understanding of why certain barriers are considered as major obstacles to innovation. In addition to providing further insight, the interviews also provided an opportunity to investigate if these potential barriers could be addressed by the solutions being developed in the SYNERGY project. The value of the interview process is reflected in the insightful remarks on the highly impactful barriers such as…

Data-driven innovation needs to account for the cost of accessing external assets which require further infrastructure to enable data sharing.

Data quality, accuracy and multi-source compatibility are blocking the identification of the value of data. Inter-organisation data linking is not always exploited.

Existing frameworks do not promote nor facilitate regulatory-driven innovation. Therefore, it is hard for regulated entities and aggregators to develop the necessary skills and processes.

Users are not usually positive in sharing their data if their use is not clearly anonymised and/or remunerated.

There is a necessity for developing new technologies and considering the business market when integrating new innovations. However, the integration of innovation should be considered a socioeconomic process, not just a technological one. The research conducted as part of SYNERGY has shown that assessing these barriers and taking a close look into the reasons behind them is essential to understand their impact and how they fit with the solutions being developed in an R&D project.

For more information on the analysis of the socioeconomic barriers in SYNERGY, you can read our executive summary from the deliverable D2.1 HERE.

The Finnish Demo Site

Forum Virium Helsinki (FVH) pilot sites are located in the city of Helsinki. There are two main pilot buildings, which are both public buildings: Urban Environment House, and a vocational school, Stadia. There are over 16 000 data points in the pilot buildings for the needs of SYNERGY. In addition, data from more than 20 residential buildings in the Kalasatama region are used to set a sound basis for a district/urban level building management framework.Urban planning and policy-making activities to be implemented will be further supported with a wealth of data coming from a 3D City Model based on CityGML and VirtualCitySystems visualisation tool, containing simulated building energy and renovation data on the city level (referring to hundreds of buildings).FVH pilots provide a wealth of data for the use of urban planners to perform more accurate analysis and dynamic simulations related to the Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plan of the city of Helsinki.

The pilot sites of Caverion have varying geographical locations in Southern Finland. Multiple pilot sites can be found in the city of Helsinki, including surrounding areas. The city of Helsinki is part of the province of Uusimaa. There are also some pilot locations in varying rural areas of Southern Finland.

The pilot sites include a variety of commercial and public buildings. Most of the buildings function as office buildings for a multitude of sub-letters. The buildings range from small office buildings to large complexes including multiple houses.

The pilot site buildings are owned by several different entities. All buildings are managed or have building technology that has been installed by Caverion, as well as have building owners that are interested in developing facility management techniques related to building technical system energy usage and energy efficiency management in accordance with sustainability goals defined by both the companies as well as by the European Union.    

The Spanish Demo Site

The Spanish Pilot from Cuerva is located in the South of Spain, in the province of Granada.

A portion of the distribution network operated by Grupo CUERVA in the region of Granada will be used as the main electricity infrastructure to set the Spanish demo site.

La Calahhora

This area for the pilot will be the “La Calahorra” community, a small village located near Granada (Spain) this area counts with 650 supply points and a peak demand of 350 kW.

Also, some other types of services can be tested in the La Calahorra pilot, enabling also grid-scale control through storage technology and massive consumer’s participation or the provision of bottom-up energy services, i.e. from the distribution to the transmission system.

Considering the type of applications to be delivered in the SYNERGY project, the La Calahorra area is ideal for exploring microgrid related use cases or testing different early-stage approaches for distribution grid operation since a significant impact can be achieved only with low-capacity control and storage devices as well as with participant consumers.

Bonete PV Plant (COBRA)

The Spanish pilot from COBRA is located within the province of Albacete, in Centre Spain. The PV asset is composed of a set of plants, in one of which the pilot will be carried out. Bonete IV PV plant is already operating and was designed for using monofacial si-based modules resting on single-axis trackers. The number of modules for Bonete IV raises up to 144.900, for a nominal power of 49.9 MW.

The aim of this pilot demo strives in different pillars: real photovoltaic plants with a diversity of locations, size and plant configurations offering wide potential resources of data in order to test the innovative services defined in the project, namely:

  • Developing machine learning algorithms in the photovoltaic energy sector focused on energy efficiency, enhancing assets reliability and production forecast in real-time to ensure the safe and effective operation of grids and the provision of innovative energy services (predictive maintenance tools).
  • Reducing LCoE and O&M Costs of PV technology through advanced analytics services.
  • Provision of enhanced Energy Management System’s Control Software to align the operation of the PV plants to the requirements of Smart Grids

The Spanish pilot from URBENER is comprised of business offices, medical and sports centres that are distributed across the Spanish territory.

The pilot will have a focus on:

  • Analysis of generation/demand and fine-grained forecasting services.
  • Personalisation of demand /flexibility profiles to optimize individualized purchase strategies in the energy market along with cost optimization in the retailer side.
  • Fine-grained flexibility forecasting in order to enable customers participation in explicit and implicit demand response market schemas.

Further reading

The Greek Demo Site

The Greek Pilot Area is located in the Attica Region.

The Greek Demo Site consists of 2 separate Pilot areas all situated in Attica Region, one in the Mesogeia area (North-eastern Attica) and the other in the Kifissia district in Northern Attica.

The Mesogeia Pilot area focuses on a specific Distribution network line that incorporates; A MV line (1-21), which includes 3 HV/MV Substations, 46 MV/LV Substations, 12 MV consumers and their own Substations, 4 major RES producers (PV stations) connected at LV and about 200 LV customers that have been equipped with smart meters employing PLC communications.

The Kifissia Pilot area focuses on a residential building equipped with its own PV Installation and an average energy self-consumption rate of 45%. Additionally, it is equipped with a 4.5 kWh electricity storage infrastructure, smart meters and smart plugs for the measurement and potentially control of the residence’s critical loads.

All Greek Demo Partners, HEDNO – IPTO – EPA – VERD, will coordinate and provide the necessary data in order to facilitate the successful implementation of the SYNERGY platform and its applications.

Read more about HEDNO HERE.
Read more about IPTO HERE.
Read more about EPA HERE.
Read more about VERD HERE.

The Croatian Demo Site

The Croatian Pilot Area is located in the north-west part of Croatia, in the region of North Kvarner, on the island of Krk.The Croatian pilot sites target self-organized local energy communities, increased self-consumption from RES (RES plants owned by Ponikve eko otok Krk d.o.o. as a data source) by exploiting flexibility from DER’s, challenge of the infrastructure that must support the tourism sector and a large number of visitors in summer and also social benefits shared to alleviate energy poverty (which is also in line with general Krk policy towards local inhabitants).

The Croatian demonstrator represents a challenging use case of the local energy community with the strategic goal of becoming a net-zero island while having to support significantly increased consumption in summer months.

KRK demo partner is acting as the ESCO/ Microgrid operator in order to provide energy services to the island which has already been named as an “eco-island” community and has a strategy of becoming a net-zero energy island in place. The selected pilot consists of Ponikve headquarters and a garbage disposal facility. These buildings are equipped with smart metering and partially equipped with building sensing /control equipment. In addition, a PV rooftop facility and EV charging station will be available at the demo site.

The following pictures show the location of the pilot areas on the island of Krk, Croatia:

  • Read more about KRK (external link)

The Austrian Demo Site

Location of the two pilot areas in the grid of the DSO Energy Güssing (Click to enlarge)

The Austrian Pilot Area is located in the Southeast of Austria, in the south of the province Burgenland, in the district of Güssing. The Austrian Demo Site focuses on two Pilot areas situated in the district of Güssing and connected to the distribution grid of the local DSO Energy Güssing. The Pilot areas are considered grid areas and are located in two different parts of the grid.

One Pilot area is located in the eastern part of the grid in the municipality Strem and the other Pilot area is located in the western part of the grid in the municipality Güssing. The pilot area “Strem” is mainly composed of single-family houses and the pilot area “Güssing” is mainly composed of business customers. A high penetration of RES plants is given in both areas (biogas plants, PV-plants).

Read more about GUS
Read more about EEE
Read more about ENES