Petrol has established the first self-sufficient energy community in Slovenia

Luče has become the first Slovenian self-sufficient energy community. The Compile project enabled the idyllic village in the Savinja Valley to be completely energy self-sufficient in the determined period of time. Along with its partners, Elektro Celje and the Faculty of Electrical Engineering of the University of Ljubljana, Petrol took over the technical integration of the network and is currently fully managing the "micro" energy community.

The village of Luče is gifted with diverse nature and green hills, but until recently, it had been facing the challenge of a weak power grid. Due to its natural diversity, this community has been encouraged to find innovative solutions in the field of electricity supply. In the Compile project, they achieved this in cooperation with partners. One of the main goals of the project was to ensure the security and safety of energy supply in the local energy system. In addition to energy effects, they also wanted to help increase the interest of the local community in energy and environmental protection as well as to obtain energy from renewable sources.

The Compile project, which is part of the EU Horizon 2020 program, started in November 2018 and will last for 42 months. The value of the project is 6.42 million euros, and it involves 12 European partners and two global partners (India and China). The main purpose of the project is to provide opportunities for decarbonisation of the energy supply network, build energy communities and generate environmental and socio-economic benefits. With its vision of involving all stakeholders in the energy system and creating several energy communities that support the existing central system, the Compile project enabled the transition from a centralised system to a flexible but stable decentralised network. This includes and supports renewable energy sources and allows for optimal integration and control of all energy factors, energy storage and electro mobility for increased decarbonisation and energy savings.

Until recently, the residents of Luče have been faced with problems and outages in their electricity supply. "In addition to providing a stable electricity community and a reliable electricity supply, the project also helped improve neighbourly relations and the economic situation of the local population. We conducted a series of workshops for members of the energy community and surrounding residents that aimed to raise awareness of energy and environmental issues and ultimately increase energy efficiency and reduce the intensity of energy consumption," Mayor Ciril Rosc proudly described the role of the Municipality of Luče in the Compile project. He also mentioned that the initiator of the Luče Energy Community is Rok Suhodolnik, who is one of the Slovenian pioneers in the field of renewable energy sources.

Companies are faced with major challenges and changes in the energy market. Petrol strives to develop smart and innovative solutions tailored to customers and to transition to a low-carbon society, while enabling customers to become active "prosumers", which means that they act on the one hand as energy consumers and on the other as producers. Jože Bajuk, a member of the Petrol Management Board, spoke about Petrol's role in the project: "Petrol sees great potential in projects of self-sufficient 'smart' energy communities. We are aware of the global challenge presented by climate change, and we follow all commitments and requirements related to reducing the carbon footprint, climate agreements and European and national legislation and guidelines. We also contribute to this through partnership projects in the field of energy, digitalisation and the environment. We place great emphasis on the development of our own knowledge, by which I am referring to Tango, our unique platform with which we are co-creating smart and user-friendly cities and communities in the markets of Southeast Europe. With new technologies, we can achieve individual objectives differently and with greater efficiency in terms of emissions and added value per employee, and they also help us to participate in the new reality that is being established. We are proud of the COMPILE project, which is the fruit of Slovenian knowledge. Thus, we developed and integrated a "micro-grid controller" as well as developed a "Home Energy Management System" and our unique Tango platform and took over the integration and management of the transformer station and the connection of the system battery. The project has great potential for further replication of developed solutions and concepts in the Slovenian countryside, especially in areas with a weak distribution network and where the integration of renewable energy sources is currently impossible. With these measures, it is possible to include a larger share of renewable energy sources and potentially postpone the investment in upgrading the local network, which would otherwise be urgently needed."

The system in Luče represents the first energy community in Slovenia that can fully cover the needs for electricity only on the basis of production from RES. Gašper Artač, from the department of Energy and Energy Management at Petrol, spoke about the technical characteristics of the first self-sufficient community for renewable energy in Luče: “Within the Luče energy community, we installed 102 kW of solar power plants at nine facilities. We installed a system battery (150 kW / 333 kWh), which is connected to a part of the network that supplies 35 measuring points. These are mostly residential houses, farms and work buildings as well as a small business, a biomass boiler room, a fire station, a cultural centre and a post office. In addition, we installed five house batteries (2 x 10 kW / 23.2 kWh, 10 kW / 11.6 kWh, 5 kW / 9.8 kWh and 3.5 kW / 7 kWh). These enable the island operation of an individual building and improve its voltage conditions, which can increase production from the solar power plant that would otherwise be limited. We installed a public charging station for electric vehicles and renovated the transformer station to allow connection of the system battery and control of switches and terminals in the transformer station via the so-called "micro-grid controller". Connection to the Tango technical information system, which enables further management, analysis and optimisation of operation. The project included the development of the so-called "Home Energy Management System" (HEMS), which is designed to process metering data from connected devices (such as smart meters, solar panels, house batteries, house electric chargers and HVAC systems) and to manage these systems. Based on the management of individual facilities and the energy community as a whole, we achieved 5 times higher production from solar power plants for members of the energy community than initially enabled by the network. We have also increased the reliability of the power supply."

The rapid and dynamic development of technology is constantly generating a multitude of new devices and poses a great challenge to distribution network operators, in this case Elektro Celje. On the one hand, it is crucial that the power system works as reliably as possible, with as few interruptions as possible, and that it has high availability and security. On the other hand, new technologies, the purpose of which is most often the optimal use of existing infrastructure, represent a fairly large variable from the point of view of the unknown impact on the existing system. "Here, we should emphasise the extremely important role of pilot projects, which are mostly multidisciplinary in terms of technology and most often multinational as well. For the distribution company Elektro Celje, this role is filled by the EU project Compile, which enables the testing of the most modern technologies in the field of self-sufficiency and the improvement of the security of electricity supply. Better utilisation of existing low-voltage infrastructure is implemented through technologies and market mechanisms, such as the flexibility of consumption and production. Of priceless value for the system and the company is the transfer of experience and good practices between individual partners, which often helps solve very demanding problems. Based on experience, this approach is extremely effective and also "safe" when introducing new technologies into distribution networks. The project will also test the island operation of the low-voltage network, which is demanding in all aspects, and represents the first such operation in Slovenia," said Miran Rošer, Assistant Director of the Operation and Development Sector at Elektro Celje.

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