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Communautés énergétiques locales

La solution ultime pour une transition réussie vers l'énergie durable. Avec la volonté de sortir du nucléaire en 2025, la Belgique propose plusieurs solutions à ses habitants, dont des subventions et plusieurs programmes de soutien pour l'achat de panneaux photovoltaïques à usage résidentiel.

The ultimate solution for a successful transition towards sustainable energyWith the desire to get out of nuclear power in 2025, Belgium proposes several solutions to its inhabitants, including subsidies and several support programmes for the purchase of photovoltaic panels for residential use.

Solar panels on residential homes in Brussels. Source: lesoir.be


The Belgian photovoltaic market has seen the highest level of activity in the last six years. In 2019, even though it may seem hard to believe there were lots of sunny days in Belgium, and that, combined with the growth in the number of solar panels installed, led to a 6% increase in photovoltaic electricity production during the first six months of the year. (source: APeRE1 & L’Écho2)
Photovoltaic panels per habitant in the three different regions of Belgium, 2019

Photovoltaics cover 9% of Belgian housing consumption. 88% of the installed capacity is located in Flanders (1 panel per inhabitant), 12% in Wallonia (1 panel per 4 inhabitants). The smallest Region and urban capital city, Brussels-Capital Region is lagging behind (1 panel for 34 inhabitants). At the national level, Belgium is in the top European rankings, according to Renouvelle3.


While these incentives and goodwill may seem harmless and environmentally friendly, they hide an unintended concern: the actual use of the energy produced.In Belgium, as in many other European countries, citizens are often accustomed to using their washing machines and other energy-intensive electrical appliances in the evening because of the cheaper tariff. And even though some people have installed photovoltaic panels, they have not yet changed these old habits and we all know habits are hard to change because, well, they’re habits.

However, with the new Belgian Prosumer Tax Policy4, implemented to reinforce better use of locally produced energy, if citizens don’t use the energy production of their photovoltaic panels throughout the day it will be injected into the national grid, which will require them to contribute to its maintenance in the form of tax. A policy-making scenario that results in a significant loss of motivation and trust of citizens towards the Belgian government.

We, at Strategic Design Scenarios, are experiencing this firsthand in a project called GAC5, Gestion Active de la Consommation, which means Active Energy Consumption Management in French. Where we’re experimenting, on a small neighborhood scale, how its inhabitants can collaboratively manage their photovoltaic energy generation and consumption through an App that’s being co-created with 49 volunteer households from the neighborhood.

Since our first encounters with some of the households, we have realized how reassuring these new concepts of collective self-consumption or Energy Communities are for them. Because being part of it means that they don’t have to consider their surplus of energy as a costly waste.

Energy Communities are now being tested, throughout Belgium, to prevent energy losses and allow people equipped with photovoltaic panels share excess electricity produced on their roofs at a preferential rate to neighbors without photovoltaic panels. Hence, electricity is produced, shared and consumed locally.


Energy Communities and collective self-consumption are not limited to residential property areas only. Many Energy Communities that include other sorts of organizations are possible. For example, in November 2019, two pilot collective self-consumption projects have been launched in Ganshoren and Forest in Brussels where local residents will be able to benefit from the electricity produced by the solar panels of two schools at a fair price.

During the weekend and the holidays, the two schools6 harvest a lot of energy with their solar panels but because there are no activities at the schools during that time and there are no batteries available for long-term storage of solar energy, the surplus of energy produced is always lost. However, if the excess energy is redistributed immediately, it can meet the energy needs of the residents of the neighborhood. Therefore, the partners7 leading the two pilot projects, are experimenting how energy-sharing can be implemented between schools and residents of the area with the help of mediators such as renewable energy promoters, Energy Regulators and distributers.

The purpose of these pilot projects is to experiment and then define, at a later stage, the structural and regulatory framework that will help expand energy communities in the Region of Brussels-Capital.MAKING TRANSITION TOWARDS SUSTAINABLE ENERGY A WIN-WIN FOR ALL

In conclusion, the concept of Energy Communities is a promising and rapidly growing concept that already shows the different types of collaboration that we can envision building. It also shows that beyond the rhetoric of energy poverty and climate change, more and more people want to take action and projects like these ones and GAC are turning innovative ideas into concrete and sustainable alternatives for an affordable and accessible energy transition for everyone.

1 www.apere.org
2 www.lecho.be
3 www.renouvelle.be/fr/statistiques/le-photovoltaique-en-2018-marche-relance-production-record
4 www.cwape.be/?dir=7.9
5 GAC is a project financed by the Wallonia Region and has a consortium of 5 partners: Greenwatch, Arewal, IGEAT – ULB, Cetic and Haulogy. Strategic Design Scenarios is subcontracted by ULB to work on the service and interface design of the platform. If you wish to learn more about the project, visit our website: www.strategicdesignscenarios.net/gestion-active-des-consommations-gac/
6 The two schools that are taking part in a test project by the Brussels government to re-distribute their surplus green energy among local residents are ‘Nos Bambins’ School in Ganshoren and the Saint-Augustin School in Forest.
7 The partners identified so far in this project are: Sibelga, Brugel, The Brussels-Capital Region, Sun for School, APeRE,’Nos Bambins’ School in Ganshoren and the Saint-Augustin School in Forest.

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