Demand ResponseDemand Side flexibilityUser EngagementSocial Community

Achieving decarbonization objectives through flexible energy communities 

In the framework of the InterConnect Project, Planet Idea together with RSE and Whirlpool – all members of the Italian Pilot team within the consortium, are experimenting added value digital energy services targeting the flexibility energy market.

Elena Fabris, Marta Scarioni, Stefano Fava (Planet Idea); Valerio Angelucci, Renato Urban (RSE)
October 30, 2020

The aim is moving from a framework targeting single energy consumers to an enhanced flexible energy community. Leveraging on IoT devices, digital tools and a standardized communication protocol, the piloting activity will pave the way to promote flexible energy communities, nowadays just possible in Italy under sandbox case studies specified in the Resolution 300/2017/R/eel by ARERA (the national energy regulatory authority). The foreseeable market for such applications is indeed interesting and forward-looking.


The peculiarity of the neighbourhood where the piloting activities are taking place represents one of the major challenges. The test site is, in fact, a newly built social housing district where more than 1500 individuals live in Milan. How do we promote the transformation of a set of households belonging to the same district into an inclusive, resilient flexible energy community? How do we identify the building blocks to trigger a smooth and successful process? These are some of the issues we are dealing with.



Planet Smart City works on community management and promotes social innovation by:

  • Fostering worthy relationships between inhabitants to trigger the creation of trust and security perception
  • Co-creating collaborative groups aimed at inclusive experiences at the local level
  • Developing a deep involvement in the care of common goods to reinforce the sense of belonging to the community
  • Empowering people with sustainable lifestyle learning paths
  • Disseminating technological and digital tools to support the community and enable participation

Two major drivers were identified and targeted to train a community to be a “flexible energy one”: creating an inclusive, resilient and innovative community and tailoring an enabling digital service. For the latter, the management and control of connected devices powered by trained algorithms on the one hand,  and a collective energy management with interoperable and connected devices on the other hand, are the two tasks that are envisaged.



This solution is intended to valorize the use of energy with close regards with grid dispatching needs and constraints, promoting social and monetary benefits.



In fact, the power system needs to be kept in exact balance between load and generation. To do so, flexibility resources (i.e. units able to change the produced/consumed energy following an ad hoc signal) are acquired in Italy by the so-called Ancillary Service Market (MSD). In the future decarbonized power system, the presence of generation based on not programmable renewable sources requires to provide a larger quantity of flexibility. The national regulator Resolution 300/2017/R/eel has promoted an initial opening of this market to small demand and production units. With these pilot projects, diversification of resources participating in the ancillary services market could be pursued, attributing an active role also to “non-relevant” (< 10 MVA) demand, generation, and storage units.



Resolution 300/2017/R/eel introduces two main concepts for the Italian scenario:

  1. Enabled virtual mixed units (UVAM in Italian, i.e. “Unità Virtuali Abilitate Miste”): the UVAMs are aggregations of consumption and/or generation points and storage systems (including e-mobility), within specific geographical boundaries;
  2. Balancing Service Provider (BSP): the BSP, acting as an aggregator, manages the UVAM and is responsible for provision of services traded on the ancillary services market.

Besides, the directives EC 2018/2001 (Renewable Energy Directive) and EC 2019/944 (Internal Energy Market) have opened the possibility of aggregating small customers within the “energy community” concept with the aim of increasing sustainability and local engagement.



Scope of the piloting activity is then to provide upward and/or downward flexibility within a defined timeframe from the request, and the remuneration for this service is then allocated to the participating units, testing the UVAM concept.



Despite the actions taken so far represent a valid support to overcome the main barriers, some regulatory and technical barriers still hinder the load participation to the energy markets. The most important open issues concerning the demand response can be summarized below:


  • The lack of an effective signal price from the wholesale energy market to final customers. Dynamic tariffs, can also improve customers’ participation to the energy markets.
  • Aggregation of small customers for providing flexibility services requires to enroll both end users and appliances from different manufacturers, in an easy and standardized manner.


From a technical perspective,  the first step is to have platforms through which end-users, the energy managers and the aggregators can seamlessly communicate, i.e. providing consent to share data from specific smart devices, selecting specific devices to be flexible and set start and end time thus making the overall Power Profile as efficient as possible –  ask for flexibility to accommodate grid constraints.



The involvement of end users into an energy flexibility community requires a huge effort particularly in the activation of trust and confidence in the digital transformation path. Families and individuals are asked to delegate the management of the equipment and its operating time. A fiduciary barrier for which the intervention of community management may be appropriate. Transparency on management processes, involvement and early engagement of users, freedom of withdrawal (as a last resort) may be factors that can reduce the barrier and be of interest also to the least risk-averse individuals.



Flexibility of small customers could be exploited also for increasing the shared energy within collective scheme such as energy communities, supporting the diffusion of renewable-energy-based generation closer to the consumption nodes.



Once the reforming process of the regulatory body of knowledge for electricity dispatching (in Italian TIDE, Testo Integrato Dispacciamento Elettrico) will be finalized, flexibility services will be provided not only to the “system level” on the ancillary service market, but also to the local distribution network.



This scenario will open the market to new business models based on the aggregation of small prosumer units to provide ancillary services as the relevant programmable units currently do.


In such a context the piloting activities under execution can be considered as a front running test to experience and validate social acceptance, technical deployment, and successful business modeling.



DIRECTIVE (EU) 2018/2001 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 11 December 2018 on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources (recast) (Text with EEA relevance).


DIRECTIVE (EU) 2019/944 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 5 June 2019 on common rules for the internal market for electricity and amending Directive 2012/27/EU (recast) (Text with EEA relevance)


Delibera 05 maggio 2017 300/2017/R/eel Prima apertura del mercato per il servizio di dispacciamento (MSD) alla domanda elettrica e alle unità di produzione anche da fonti rinnovabili non già abilitate nonché ai sistemi di accumulo. Istituzione di progetti pilota in vista della costituzione del testo integrato dispacciamento elettrico (TIDE) coerente con il balancing code europeo




Next article

One of the final objectives of InterConnect project is the participation of consumers in effective energy management.

Jeanne Piedallu
October 27, 2020