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  • 1
    object(stdClass)#4248 (59) {
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      ["title"]=>
      string(65) "Are Energy Communities Not the True Liberalization of the Market?"
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      ["introtext"]=>
      string(309) "

    The liberalization of the market has been on the agenda of European energy companies for 20 years. Imposed by regulation, it aimed to open the energy market to competition, electricity first, gas in a second time.

    " ["fulltext"]=> string(3188) "

    This move, aimed at lowering prices and offering choices to consumers, has resulted in various strategies:

    – Defense at all costs by the historical suppliers of their dominant position.

    – Attack of the incumbent suppliers on prices, historically their main weak point.

    – Attack of the incumbent suppliers with green energy offerings, while their historical production mix was highly emitting CO2.

    With more or less happiness, the liberalization of the markets gave birth to a new landscape:

    – Incumbent suppliers have sometimes paid a high price for stubbornness in defending their positions rather than establishing new ones.

    – New entrants have sometimes struggled against the incumbent behemoths and their margins have had difficulties to progress.

    – The proximity offered by local suppliers has been undermined by new entrants.

    – The quality of service to consumers has sometimes suffered.

    – The expected fall in prices has not always occurred, for reasons unrelated to liberalization but poorly understood by consumers.

    It is this contrasting reality that is observed by Swiss energy companies when it comes to discussing the total opening of their market to competition.

    The fragmented structure of the Swiss market favors proximity to consumers. Total liberalization is clearly a threat to this proximity, but does it mean that consumers have no choice?

    Today’s conditions are different from what they were 20 years ago: energy communities come in different forms:

    – Grouping of the occupants of the same building to consume the production of a shared facility.

    – Grouping of the inhabitants of a district to share their production and consume all the productions of a district.

    – Grouping of dispersed micro-producers marketing and developing their production together with diffuse customers.

    These communities, in some cases, are market liberalization, bringing an unprecedented local dimension to consumers. According to the regulations, this liberalization is even more complete than the previous one because the distribution itself can be liberalized.

    This new form of liberalization preserves the proximity that is so necessary and so desired by consumers. It offers a more favorable evolution for local energy companies who can benefit from it and promote it.

    In some countries, the big national players tend to fight it as they fought the previous one. I tend to think they are wrong: nothing seems to stop it. And there is probably more to gain from accompanying and coping with it, even if it may seem complex, than to be punished for having once again opposed the course of history.

    We have seen in Europe a liberalization imposed by regulation; with energy communities, we are facing market liberalization on its own: addressing and taking advantage of it will require more elaborate strategies from energy providers.

    Click here to read other articles of the same author. 

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    Are Energy Communities Not the True Liberalization of the Market?

    Eric Morel
  • 2
    object(stdClass)#4253 (59) {
      ["id"]=>
      string(4) "5310"
      ["title"]=>
      string(66) "The Electricity Network: Mandatory Motorway or Optional Insurance?"
      ["alias"]=>
      string(64) "the-electricity-network-mandatory-motorway-or-optional-insurance"
      ["introtext"]=>
      string(469) "

    This question is a symbol of ongoing developments in the energy field; channeling the production of centralized units to dispersed consumers requires a distribution infrastructure such as the networks we have been accustomed to, so much so that they are an integral part of the “landscape” and so that it is difficult for us, Westerners, to imagine alternative schemes.

    " ["fulltext"]=> string(2898) "

    In emerging countries, whose challenge is to provide access to electricity to more villages and homes, a distribution network is an expensive infrastructure that is nowadays avoidable: in each community or group of communities, it is now possible to implement generators, efficient in terms of production costs and to distribute their production locally.

    This scheme allows significant progress as long as a high-consumption plant is not to be supplied and as long as the inhabitants accept to adapt their lifestyle habits to periods when electricity is available (the development of storage will considerably reduce this aspect).

    Some have seen, in these schemes of autonomous microgrids, a prefiguration of electricity distribution in all countries.

    It seems to me, under the current conditions, a daring, even inconsequential and far-fetched point of view.

    However, we note the risk of underutilized distribution networks, due to the emergence of local productions and energy communities: DSOs are afraid of this trend and for some time have raised the risk for their income, made of network fees, whose basis for calculation may be reduced.

    For their part, self-producing consumers have some difficulties in admitting (in countries where this is the case) to pay network fees for a network they do not use. We can understand them.

    The stakes are seemingly irreconcilable!

    An important point is however left out, unveiling consumers’ willingness to change without thinking of all the possible consequences. When we survey self-producers, in all European countries, more than 95% implicitly expect to be rescued by the network in case of interruption of their production.

    Does not this insurance have a cost? and so a price? and should this price not vary according to the risk coverage we wish to have.

    For the electricity we buy, it is allowed to pay for the network we use. For the electricity we consume, we have to charge consumers according to the risk they want to be covered: up to their former subscription level? up to 1kW to ensure a minimum? up to 3kW for not too much penalizing the comfort of life?

    Let’s say some people do not want any insurance! Let’s also assume that insurance premiums vary from year to year depending on consumer choice.

    We need consistency in our management of energy transitions to create meaning and help consumers understand the changes underway and their implications.There is nothing worse than prolonging inappropriate and misunderstood management and pricing systems.

    Click here to read other articles of the same author. 

     
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    The Electricity Network: Mandatory Motorway or Optional Insurance?

    Eric Morel
  • 3
    object(stdClass)#4727 (59) {
      ["id"]=>
      string(4) "5232"
      ["title"]=>
      string(44) "One Question: What's The Farm Of The Future?"
      ["alias"]=>
      string(42) "one-question-what-s-the-farm-of-the-future"
      ["introtext"]=>
      string(230) "

    Life on farms is a labour of love. Indeed, in the farming and agriculture industry, there is no such thing as a day off or a break. Ultimately, without farming, there is no food. 

    " ["fulltext"]=> string(4855) "

    However, as the pressure on the agriculture sector is increasing, more and more farming families struggle to make a living. Many are forced to sell their fields to local realtors or abandon the small farm because they can’t fight the aggressive competition from mass-produced GMOs and larger corporations. 

    However, as farming space grows smaller and more difficult to manage, maybe it’s time to consider how automated, smart technologies could do the hard work for farmers. 

    Pexels - CC0 Licence 

    Machine Vision Can Process Data to Manage Fields

    Managing the many requirements of agriculture fields is hard work. However, machine learning could transfer most of the field duties to computers and robots, who are more likely to perform straining activities without issues. Indeed, machine vision, for instance, is expected to reach a whopping 14 billion US dollar by 2024. In theory, the tech monitors the fields at hand to measure the need for sowing, irrigation, weed control, and grading vegetables and fruits. While developed countries struggle to find temporary workers to help with seasonal harvesting, it appears that machines could solve the issue altogether. 

    Can Transformative Machinery Give Crops a New Life?

    However, if farms can use robots to control their day-to-day activities, can they also deliver automatically? Indeed, in small communities, farmers would need to work together to evaluate their collective impact on the food market. When it comes to small volumes of vegetables, it appears crucial for farmers to consider further markets, outside of food, for their crops.  Ideally, machinery that can take heavy loads, using slow processes on bearing rollers, are typically reserved for mass production and transformation manufacturers. Transformative technology for plant-based materials could be the answer to remain relevant. 

    Can Machines Replace the Sun?

    The most alarming element, when it comes to the farming and agriculture industry, is the weather. Climate change, indeed, is affecting small and big producers, making it difficult to grow quality vegetables and fruits in a constantly changing weather. However, while we still have a lot to do to reduce our environmental impact. Nevertheless, technology can help to manage crops and optimise growth environment. Indeed, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has been working on computer algorithms to determine and recreate the best growing conditions, using cyber agriculture technology. During the process, plants are exposed to 24 hours light to enhance growth and taste. 

    Do We Still Need Farmers?

    The future of agriculture isn’t robotic yet. However, more and more tech innovations are being developed to tackle both strenuous tasks and processes that, left to nature, have become too hazardous. It makes no doubt, though, that no algorithm can yet replace the specialist knowledge and expertise of experienced farmers. The question is: How can we maximise their know-how while reducing human labour? 

    Pexels - CC0 Licence 

    In the grand scheme of things, it is evident that farming is evolving towards a robotised environment. Perhaps, we can hope that, in the near future, small farms would be able to combine efforts and volume to make the most of existing technology. It makes no doubt, for instance, that to reduce our carbon footprint, the farms of the future will also grow building materials, making machinery with precision balls and transformative technology an essential feature of their community. As for food purposes, the time has come to trust Mr. Robot. 

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    One Question: What's The Farm Of The Future?

    Anas Bouargane
  • 4
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      ["title"]=>
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    It’s easy to say that solving climate change falls largely into the hands of governments and mega-corporations because they have more influence. The truth, however, is that everyone can contribute in addressing this pressing global issue.

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    Indeed, even a small business can make a positive impact through practical changes. What’s even better is that eco-friendly practices is not only good for the environment, but it can also influence your good business reputation and result in an increase in profits. Why? More and more people are becoming aware of environmental issues and would readily support an environmentally friendly business.

    So how can you make your business greener and more eco-friendly? Here are a few practical ways.

    Use as Less Paper as Possible

    Living in the digital age means it’s easier than ever to reduce paper consumption. Instead of printing out forms, create online documents. You can also develop your own programs, so that simple internal processes that used to need paperwork can be converted and transferred online. For existing physical documents, it’s a good idea to scan them and create an electronic system to organise these documents in the cloud. If you really must print something that doesn’t need to be shared with a client, use recycled paper. In addition, you may want to source your paper supplies from an eco-friendly company.

    Practice Proper Waste Disposal

    Businesses of all shapes and sizes generate waste. Some examples include paper, old furniture, broken electronics, printer cartridges, and even lunch waste. If you don’t properly segregate and dispose of these wastes, you’ll end up harming the environment. Segregation is easy enough to do with the use of designated waste bins. For businesses that generate a bigger volume of waste or those that just finished remodeling or similar projects, skip bins are a great solution. Local skip bin hire prices vary depending on the size of the skip and the number of days you’re going to use it. Still, your investment will be well worth the price if you consider various factors like time, resources, and proper disposal.

    Telecommute

    People waste hundreds of hours sitting in traffic driving or commuting to work and back. In turn, they waste precious resources like fuel and contribute to worsening pollution. It also wastes productive hours. A green way to solve this issue is to transition to telecommuting. This will help not just your business, but also your employees to save time and money. In addition, you’ll be able to minimise your company’s carbon footprint. Even just one or two days of having your people work remotely can help bring about significant change. While you’re at it, you should also establish a robust cloud system to help with remote productivity.

    Dispose of E-Waste Properly

    Businesses generate a lot of electronic waste or e-waste, like cell phones, TVs and monitors, printers, laptop and desktop computers. Each year, millions of metric tonnes of e-waste are produced around the world and end up damaging the environment, as well as affect human health and safety. One way that businesses can help curb this problem is to not trash e-waste as much as possible. Try looking for places that need donations, like schools or charitable institutions. If the gadget or device can’t be saved, ensure that they’re properly recycled.

    Opt for Energy-Efficient Appliances

    In relation to the proper disposal of e-waste, once you decide to get rid of old equipment, replace them with energy-efficient ones. Do an “energy check” and see which brands and models are more energy-efficient and buy those products. For businesses, some of the first energy-efficient items that you should invest in are air-conditioning units and refrigerators.

    Go Solar

    Using alternative energy sources for powering even just a small part of your business can make a big difference. One of the most accessible ways to do this is by installing solar panels on the roof or even walls that get a lot of sunlight. Another great thing about using alternative and renewable energy? You may get incentives from the government and different organisations.

    Incentivise Eco-friendly Employees

    What’s another great way to push for more eco-friendly practices at work? Reward those who already do. For example, you may give bonuses or gifts to employees who bike to work. You should also develop simple programs like assigning a carpooling station for those who live within the same general area.

    Transforming your business to become more eco-friendly benefits not just the planet, but it also benefits your business, your employees, and your customers in various ways. Start small and slowly integrate more socially and environmentally responsible practices. You might even inspire other businesses to do the same.

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    7 Practical Ways to Make Your Business More Eco-friendly

    Anas Bouargane

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