It's essential to use regional resources
The energy transition has already started. The use of regional resources, particularly through prosumption and prosumer communities, is essential to its completion. Using these resources will require the distribution companies to reinvent themselves so that they more closely reflect market realities – something that Eniwa AG, energy supplier to the Aarau region, has already achieved.
"The only constant factor for energy distributors should be permanent change," emphasised Samuel Pfaffen, Eniwa's head of business development, at the Smart Energy event in August 2018. In his view, distribution companies are well-positioned to adapt to an increasingly dynamic environment. In this context, the use of regional renewable energy is a tremendous opportunity.
Founded 160 years ago, Eniwa was originally known as Industrielle Betriebe Aarau. In the early days, its main task was to burn wood for street lighting. Today, the Aarau-based company gives priority to the use of regional resources and advocates prosumption.
A third of the energy it produces is sold to the Aarau municipality and the rest is distributed between 26 smaller municipalities in the Aargau canton. A fifth of Eniwa's sales come from its own production and are related to renewable energy. The company has some 45,000 meters and an annual turnover of approximately CHF 150 million.
Samuel Pfaffen made the following observation: "The population is going to continue to increase. So sales of electricity are going to increase. That's why Eniwa AG wants to develop its services. The objective is for 30% of our gas sales to be covered by biogas in the next 50 years."
The advantage of prosumer communities
Eniwa AG is promoting prosumer communities. A prosumer community consists of an electrical energy producer and several consumers living close to the same network connection. These consumers are supplied with electrical energy from their own energy production facilities (for example, photovoltaic panels). If this is insufficient, the rest of the energy is taken from the supplier's distribution network.
Prosumer communities reduce the costs to their customers by 15%. From the supplier's standpoint, their income is reduced by 30%, but some taxes are waived, which means that in the end, their return is more or less the same. Eniwa AG is actively involved in the market for prosumption of regional resources and in its view, all stakeholders can benefit from it: energy suppliers, customers, and of course, the environment.
In Pfaffen's opinion, prosumer communities have a lot of potential, which is why Eniwa AG is currently supporting a pilot project called "Im Erlifeld". This consists of 90 apartments in nine residential buildings situated in Unterentfelden, a municipality in the Aargau canton. The company will install solar panels on the flat roofs of the apartment buildings, and the energy they produce will be used to meet residents' requirements. The project will start in autumn 2019, and will also encourage residents to use electric cars.
Eniwa AG is pursuing its aims of digitisation, decarbonisation and decentralisation through active involvement in several other energy projects. These involve developing the fibre optic network in the Aarau region, using blockchain, and fully exploiting hydroelectric power stations, and allow Samuel Pfaffen to describe his company as a technological pioneer focusing primarily on the environment.
Report of the presentation given on 31 August 2018 during the Smart Energy event