The Basque cooperative Goiener is taking part in the BECoop project, within the framework of the European Horizon 2020 programme, which seeks to provide the necessary conditions and the technical and business support tools to promote the underlying market for bioenergy deployed by renewable energy communities through the deployment of a series of demonstrative cases of bioenergetic communities. The purpose of this article is to explain Goiener’s experience in the BECoop project.
Bioenergetic Communities: Key to promoting renewable heating solutions
ENERGY SITUATION: EUROPE AND BASQUE COUNTRY-NAVARRA
At a European level, the residential sector consumes 40% of final energy consumption, where more than 70% is used for heating, domestic hot water (DHW) and cooling. These needs are fed by 75% through fossil fuels, which is why it is in the spotlight of policies aimed at decarbonizing the economy in 2050.
In this direction, the latest measures adopted by the European Commission in the last year through the Fit for 55 and RePowerEU initiative packages establish different objectives. On the one hand, the reduction of GHG by at least 55% between now and 2030 compared to 1990 levels, on the other hand, sustainability criteria are defined for bioenergy and the aim is to reduce the energy dependency that, today, implies the use of fossil fuels, doubling the generation capacity of bioenergy, among other measures.
In our territorial scope of application, the Basque Country and Navarra, although the residential sector represents around 12 and 18% (less than the European, given the great weight that industry has) of the final energy consumption, the uses of energy for heating are still based on fossil fuels and, therefore, with a high decarbonisation potential. This situation is evident in the distribution of final energy consumption shown below, where the use of renewable sources to supply these demands is very little extended and is around 8% of the total (2019).
It is true that this renewable penetration has been improving in recent years, given the increase in photovoltaic solar self-consumption installations, but in most cases they have been oriented towards supplying electrical energy demands, leaving aside the main and less sustainable point of household consumption: heating and DHW. Among other causes, the explicit commitment from the institutions with competences in the matter for Natural Gas, in addition to the low acquisition prices of this raw material in recent years have made this solution the most widespread.
With this goal of decarbonisation in mind, the Basque Country’s sustainability law establishes a 40% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030 and a renewable quota of 32% with respect to total energy consumption and a gradual elimination of the use of hydrocarbons liquids (diesel, propane, butane…) promoting centralized renewable heat energy systems.
In the case of Navarra, a reduction of 45% is established for 2030, the aim is to reduce energy consumption by 10%, that 50% of what is consumed in the regional community be renewable and a total elimination of fossil fuels in the new constructions of buildings for residential, tertiary and large agricultural use by 2030. Likewise, the projects of small companies or cooperatives for the use of local forest biomass (<150km) and agricultural by-products for thermal uses will be considered as of regional interest.
These plans towards a decarbonised economy have the common denominator of being designed by and for the people, putting citizens (and not consumers) at the center of the energy transition. Thus, the European Commission’s Clean Energy for All Europeans package confirms the prominent role that prosumers and their various collective forms will play in the future energy system. The EU legislative framework formally recognizes and defines specific types of community energy as “citizen energy communities” (CEC) aimed at participation in the electricity market through different sources (renewable or non-renewable) not necessarily local and “community Renewable Energy» (CER), aimed at all associated energy vectors, through renewable sources in a local area of action.
At the national level, despite the lack of a defined regulatory framework, the second type of initiative (CER) has been promoted for some time, guided in many cases by a comparative study of IIDMA that matches the criteria of these directives with the different existing legal figures in our territory, specifying the cooperative and associative models, as the ideal ones.
GOIENER AND ITS VALUE PROPOSAL. PARTICIPATION IN BECOOP
This unsustainable energy scenario of energy imports and capital exports has served as a boost for Goiener, as a citizen cooperative of renewable energies, to promote local generation projects through community movements.
Since mid-2020, at Goiener we have begun to accompany different initiatives for the creation of energy communities. Today there are 16 projects in different stages of progress: Hernani, Leitza, Usurbil are a small sample of the potential of the communities that are emerging. In these projects, seeing the decarbonisation potential of expanding these approaches from the electrical to the thermal sphere, the cooperative decided to participate in the BECoop project to be able to develop renewable thermal self-consumption solutions based on local resources such as biomass.
BECoop receives funding from the Horizon 2020 program of the European Union (EU) and its objective is to provide the necessary conditions and technical and business support tools to enhance the underlying market for bioenergy deployed by renewable energy communities. Goiener participates together with other European energy cooperatives at different stages of maturity, as a Spanish pilot case with the technical support of the CIRCE technology center. The objective is to deploy a series of demonstrative cases of bioenergy communities that serve as learning to replicate this concept throughout the rest of the cooperatives that are being promoted. In addition to these cases of individualized support, BECoop also provides free tools that are available to any citizen/company with the aim of supporting the implementation of energy communities based on bioenergy. Some of these resources are:
- Self-diagnosis tool, which indicates the level of maturation of the initiative you want to promote and some recommendations to follow for its implementation.
- Repository of useful tools to develop initiatives based on biomass or energy communities.
- Electronic market platform, with the aim of identifying and facilitating the contact of different types of actors that are necessary to promote this type of initiative.
- Knowledge exchange platform, which acts as a forum to solve any doubts that may arise and a repository of useful information.
- Technical and business catalogues, to prevent lack of knowledge from becoming a barrier.
BECoop’s objective is therefore clear: to collectivize local resources through shared thermal self-consumption, to deal with the greater and less sustainable energy consumption in homes; heating and hot water, from a sustainable approach (Fit for 55), inclusive and participatory that assumes the reduction of energy consumption as the main source of energy. It is about facing these future scenarios of uncertainty and instability from a position of resilience and a sense of belonging to a community, based on the possibilities that nearby resources can offer.
ACHIEVEMENTS AND CHALLENGES AFTER A YEAR AND A HALF OF THE PROJECT
After a first year and a half of the project analyzing the potential for exploiting the biomass resources available in the Basque Country and Navarra, as well as the existing community movements around energy, the main challenges and opportunities presented by this type of projects in our region.
In the first place, it is perceived that in densely populated environments (Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa) where the main biomass resource (forest) turns out to be privately owned, its thermal recovery should compete, on the one hand, with more profitable uses of timber stocks and, on the other, with Widely deployed town gas powered individual solutions. Likewise, the lack of knowledge about the potential thermal renewable solutions based on biomass and social activation around community initiatives turn out to be part of the identified barriers.
In the communities of Navarra and Álava, a great potential for energy transition is perceived based on biomass resources, mainly forestry, especially in rural environments where their exploitation is owned by citizens and where there is an already established culture of local community management. In this case, the main barriers are associated with the low densities of energy demands, for the cases of implementation of distributed heat solutions and the lack of knowledge about the potential that the community valuation of these resources can present.
In this same period, different cases have been identified (generation of biogas from slurry for self-consumption in the community, cooperative marketing of biofuels based on the treatment of local resources, marketing of heat in the community through the exploitation of local forestry and agricultural resources , among other cases), in which to deploy the concepts that BECoop wants to promote and two cases have been selected as a test bed to work on the development of this novel approach to bioenergy communities.
Aberasturi as a case that covers the entire bioenergy value chain, from the forest/plantation to the radiator. In this case, the project aims to assess the feasibility of deploying a bioenergy community that, by valuing local agricultural and forestry resources, can supply heat to its partners in a competitive and sustainable manner with the surrounding environment through a heat network (District Heating).
Murgia-Zuia as a case where the first stages of the value chain are covered, from the forest to the boiler. In this case, the project aims to evaluate the possibility of supplying the local demand for chips through local resources. In a second phase, the possibility of replicating success stories such as Sugarai would be considered, where the organization of different public/private actors around a cooperative and its local forest resources has made it possible to implement a fully viable biofuel production service.
Learning, in the very process of accompanying and creating energy communities, as well as the specific application of solutions based on bioenergy use, will allow us to apply these solutions to all the communities in which we have been providing support or service, in addition to making it possible to define of services that we can provide to our members directly. All of this with the ultimate goal of promoting a reduction in dependence on fossil fuels, doing so in a fair and respectful manner with our environment and people, and enabling better cohesive and resilient communities in a global scenario that is increasingly uncertain.