Brussels, (Brussels Morning)- Energy communities, where Brussels residents share excess electricity with their neighbours, are popular in Brussels. The Energy Sharing and Energy Communities Facilitator has already received about 200 project proposals, says BRUZZ.
Those who generate green energy and produce more electricity than they consume, automatically sell the surpluses to the grid. That energy can also be repurposed in another way, for example in an energy community. The excess electricity is then distributed among the members who do not have the means to install solar panels themselves. This can be within the same building or between different buildings. And that at an advantageous rate for both producer and consumer.
A number of pilot projects were already started in 2020. The first was a kindergarten in Ganshoren , which installed solar panels on the roof to share the generated energy with local residents. Thanks to the initiative, the energy community saved 3,200 euros on their energy bill between January and June 2022. For the Marius Renard project, 50 residents of a co-ownership in Anderlecht share a cogeneration unit on natural gas, which simultaneously generates heat as electricity and therefore emits less CO2.
The ongoing projects date back to a time when there was no legal framework for energy communities in the region. That has changed since the end of April. “Thanks to the legal framework, such projects can be widely rolled out in the region,” says Benjamin Wilkin, director of the Facilitator Energy Sharing and Energy Communities, the body that supports the establishment of an energy community. “We have already received about 200 proposals today.”
Conditions and formalities
Yet it is not the case that Brussels will have 200 energy communities next month. According to Wilkin, setting up such a community usually takes a year because of preconditions and formalities.
“First members have to be found, then agreements have to be made about the distribution key and prices, and a common counter has to be installed. If there is not yet a system to generate renewable energy, it has to be set up,” explains Wilkin.
In addition, the energy community must be registered as a non-profit association or company and must be recognized by the government and Brugel, the body that regulates energy in Brussels. An important condition for a permit is that the motivation is social and ecological and not about the financial benefits. Energy communities are there for those who cannot invest in renewable energy such as solar panels themselves.
A final condition is that the members have autonomy. “The community should not be led by one person, but by the whole community. It also remains voluntary: participants can come and go as they please, just like you are free to change energy suppliers,” says Wilkin.