A low-cost technological package to support Energy Communities
The Lightness project, funded by the EU Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, aims to empower citizens to generate, share and sell renewable energy to contribute to making the European energy sector more sustainable and democratic. To deliver on this ambition, the project focuses on four key working areas: innovative business models; a low-cost technological package; social engagement; and a regulatory roadmap.
As one of the technology partners supporting the Lightness project, IES (a leading innovator in sustainable analytics technology and digital twin solutions for the built environment) is involved in developing a holistic Citizen Energy Community (CEC) simulation tool. This solution will leverage IES’ existing digital twin technology – the Intelligent Communities Lifecycle (ICL) – to enable sustainability analysis of the participating communities.
A digital twin is essentially a virtual replica of a physical element in the built environment, such as a building or neighbourhood, and all its dynamics. This live digital twin gathers real-world data and produces accurate simulations to create a data-rich, living 1:1 model that behaves in the same way as its real-world counterpart. This means a digital twin can have many useful applications in the community context, covering everything from: the assessment of energy conservation measures; balancing of local energy networks and renewables; continuous performance monitoring, fault detection and maintenance planning; and testing of new ideas or “what if” scenarios, all in a virtual environment.
The digital twin considers local weather data, climate predictions and the existing energy infrastructure to help produce accurate insights into community sustainability performance. It can also analyse the potential impact of various Citizen Energy Community scenarios, in this way, helping to identify the optimal scenario, based on community preferences and limitations.
Based on this technology, the low-cost Citizen Energy Community tool developed at Lightness, will ultimately provide a citizen-friendly, interactive, 3D community information model with dashboards to communicate various energy, sustainability and socio-economic indicators. It will be designed to help communities understand their energy interactions and options for improvement to make better informed energy decisions. The technology package will therefore be crucial in helping citizen communities play an active role in the energy transition, while also benefitting from the additional economic, social, and environmental benefits that digital solutions can help them uncover.
This tech solution will be set up and tested across the project’s pilot sites across Europe to demonstrate the suitability of the tool in different contexts. These range in legal and market frameworks, climate zones, utilisation of renewable resources, environmental awareness of citizens, and the current financial schemes or incentives available in each region.