Energy Communities

Renewable Energy Communities (RECs), governed by Decree-Law 162/2019, of 25 October, are a key element of the National Energy and Climate Plan (PNEC), which aims to increase the consumption of energy from renewable sources between 2021 – 2030.

In addition to establishing the legal status of RECs, this decree also covers the self-consumption of renewable energy. As such, it can be viewed as a key measure in achieving climate goals. These include a target of 47% renewable energy, as well as the active participation of businesses and individuals in the energy transition.

Portugal was one of the first countries to commit to going carbon neutral. The target is now to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 30% by 2030.

Renewable Energy Communities

Decree-Law 162/2019 defines a “Renewable Energy Community” (REC) as a legal entity, membership of which is open and voluntary. Its members may be individuals or legal entities, including small and medium enterprises and local authorities, providing that it is independent from, but controlled by, its members or partners.

This legal status gives the REC the power to produce, consume, store and sell renewable energy. It is also possible to share the energy produced using its generating facilities.

This decree therefore enables electricity consumers to organize in order to produce energy from renewable sources. This is then consumed, shared and stored, and the excess is sold back to the national grid. In practice, this new system provides a strong incentive to generate clean energy. As a result, we are witnessing a gradual increase in the installation of solar/photovoltaic panels on houses, apartment buildings, industrial estates, public buildings and elsewhere.

Portugal’s first energy community

Lisbon Green Valley, the first “solar neighbourhood” – a Collective Self-Consumption Renewable Energy Community (CACER) – is located in Belas, in the Sintra region. This project aims to promote the production of 100% clean energy for self-consumption, using solar power, thus reducing electricity bills. This neighbourhood was chosen both because it is one of the most sustainable developments in Europe, and because it corresponds to strategic sustainability targets.

In this community, energy is generated and shared locally, generating benefits in terms of sustainability, efficiency, and reduction of greenhouse gases. To date, the project is only designed to cover one group of houses, but the aim is to extend it to all homes in the neighbourhood.

Consequently, in this first solar neighbourhood, a home with 9 330W photovoltaic panels – a total installed capacity of 2970W -, will save an estimated €500 each year and reduce its annual CO2 emissions by almost a tonne.

This is a pioneering project and an example to follow, arising from the recent legislative innovation incentivising the creation of collective self-consumption energy communities. This means that the development in which the panels are fitted (producer) supplies electricity to the other buildings or homes in the area (consumers).

Energy sharing

Although the legislation has already been published, the General Department for Energy and Geology (DGEG) is still developing “final regulations to facilitate local energy sharing”.

The approval of this legislation also seeks to increase the role of local councils in decarbonisation. Local stakeholders (councils, neighbourhood associations, businesses and other members of Energy Communities) must therefore assess the available opportunities and devise integrated solutions. For example, they could combine renewable electricity generation with electric vehicles, or use it in conjunction with renewable gas and hydrogen, a national strategy for which has been put to public consultation.