Community energy meets smart grids: Reviewing goals, structure, and roles in Virtual Power Plants in Ireland, Belgium and the Netherlands

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Community-driven energy initiatives are seen as important drivers of the energy transition. So far these initiatives focused mainly on energy generation and conservation. Recently however, some initiatives started to adopt smart grid technologies like Virtual Power Plants (VPP) which enables them to become involved in the distribution, trading and management of energy. By adopting a multiple-methods approach consisting of literature reviews on community energy and Virtual Power Plant, action research, semi-structured interviews and by mobilizing Family Resemblance, this article explores the community-based Virtual Power Plants as a novel model for energy provision. We identified five building blocks that together form a cVPP: the community involved, the community-logic under which the project operates, the portfolio of distributed energy resources aggregated and controlled by an ICT control architecture, and the roles communities can collectively play in the energy system by means of cVPP. Three practical cases in Ireland, Belgium and the Netherlands highlight the diversity of cVPPs, that results from different choices and trade-offs made by various communities in diverse institutional contexts. Applying the cVPP conceptualization made visible that the three cVPPs had to comply with the incumbent energy system, making it difficult to play the preferred roles in the energy system, operate on the scale of their community and to keep their own needs and values center stage.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101415
Number of pages14
JournalEnergy Research and Social Science
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research is funded by Interreg NWE as part of the cVPP project (no. 588).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Elsevier Ltd


  • community energy
  • virtual power plant
  • community-based virtual power plant
  • cVPP
  • renewable energy
  • distributed energy resources
  • energy transition
  • Energy transition
  • Smart grid
  • Community-based Virtual Power Plant
  • Energy cooperatives
  • Community energy
  • Virtual Power Plant


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