The second MIA Online Event on the topic of energy communities was opened by Eva-Maria Titz, responsible for research and innovation in the cabinet of the Federal Minister for Climate Action. In her statement she referred to a recently published study on renewable energies in Austria highlighting astonishing results concerning energy communities and underlining the need for action. A large part of the Austrian population already wants to actively contribute to energy system transformation and can imagine becoming part of an energy community. Around two thirds of the respondents are already considering active participation in such facilities. This also shows the valuable contribution of pilot projects coming from research and innovation, because in the 4 initiatives presented the vision of energy communities is already lived today. The experience gained from these initiatives can contribute valuable evidence-based knowledge to the implementation of the EU Directive on Energy Communities.
The first presentation came from act4.energy: The Innovation Laboratory in Southern Burgenland, which emerged from the 4th call of the research program „City of Tomorrow“, is making an important contribution with the development of innovative energy management services for PV self-consumption optimization to enable citizens to actively participate in the energy turnaround.
The testbed Heimschuh was presented as a second example. The project deals with the optimal use of free, time-changing grid capacities to generate income opportunities for the users (prosumers). This approach is made possible by the blockchain technology and the high degree of automation that comes with it.
The third initiative at the Technopol in Wieselburg is concerned with microgrid technologies, which are tested and further developed under laboratory conditions with the aim of enabling 100% decentralised energy supply. The concept is being tested in real operation with a PV system of the municipality of Wieselburg and an electric storage facility at the technopol site.
The fourth contribution presented OurPower.coop, a cooperative developing and operating an online peer-to-peer market place: Household and businesses all over Austria can choose among dozends of power producers from solar, wind, hydro, or biogas and decide where their electricity is produced and where their money is going. Thus strengthening regions and communities.
The second part of the event was a discussion with the implementers, users, and proponents of the presented cases: Bernd Strobl (Mayor of Ollersdorf, Austria), Emil Schöllerl (Citizen of Ollersdorf, Austria), Gerhard Knippitsch (Vice-Mayor of Heimschuh, Austria) and Birgit Birnstingl (solar power producer and member of OurPower.coop). The discussion underlined how necessary and effective the community approach and active citizen involvement is. If people on the local as well as on the national level are well informed, empowered to participate and to design their pilot projects, inspiration, motivation and success is guaranteed. Or as Bernd Strobl, mayor of Ollersdorf in southern Burgenland, put it: „I see it as a mosaic, if we all add a stone, we can build a house“.