Prosumers’ Behavior under a Regulation That Encourages Strict Self-Sufficiency. The Case of Spanish Photovoltaic Micro-Generation
2. The Spanish Regulation of mPVG: Incentives and Barriers
- A high distrust of micro-generation as it was seen as a factor that disturbs (if not outright harms), the management of the electricity system which would become as result more expensive. Thus, the capacity of plants was limited: the maximum capacity should not be greater than that contracted as a consumer, with the absolute limit of 100 kW. In addition, a complex and expensive approval procedure was established (except for plants up to 10 kW, although several contracts to renew and/or subscribe were still required) which, in case of disagreements between the distributor and the project developer, led to a long litigation process. Also a detailed registration of plants was set up. The distributor was also empowered to unilaterally disconnect any plant suspected to cause problems on the network. Finally, heavy fines were imposed to micro-generators in the event of technical or regulatory breaches.
- Widely discriminatory economic conditions were imposed. Exports of residential prosumers were not remunerated, even though they had to pay an access charge to the electricity system, depending on the installed power and self-generated energy (either instantly consumed, stored or exported). In addition, a special back-up charge for electricity imports from the network was established. Any kWh bought by the prosumers included all the fees and taxes that were borne by any consumer. It should be pointed out that a ‘metering service fee’ was also proposed. As regards connection to the network, the deep connection charging rule was applied, i.e., the prosumers were required to ask for the permits and bear the cost of the investments for network reinforcement (amount replaced by a connection generation fee for residential plants up to 20 kW).
- The payment to the electricity exported is very low: it is paid at the average hourly price of the wholesale market  (art. 14.3) and in no case can the monthly balance (considered the net-billing period) be in favor of the prosumer. By the end of 2020, this price was €cents/kWh ~5 which is a figure below the generation cost (€cents/kWh~ 8 if the mPVG plant does not have a battery and between €cents/kWh 13–14 if it has one). So, there aren’t any incentives for exports.
- Although micro-generation is focused on self-consumption, which means installing batteries to overcome night hours, buying batteries does not benefit from substantial support. It should be remembered that, for plants up to 10 kW, the cost of a battery of at least 7 kW represents between 1/3 and 1/2 of the total investment.
- The recently mentioned 500-m limit makes it difficult for the urban population living in dense neighborhoods to participate in self-production. Rather, it looks like it is a measure intended for housing estates and gated communities.
- It maintains the maximum capacity of 100 kW, which prevents commercial areas, workshops and industrial companies from installing plants which, after covering their own needs, could export significant surpluses to the grid.
3. Hypothetical Markets for mPVG
- Regulation gives the greatest priority to self-sufficiency, that is, the instantaneous self-consumption plus the consumption which uses the previously stored energy. Therefore, if there are surpluses, these will always feed the battery The self-sufficiency condition can be stricter if, once the battery has been charged, the surplus electricity has to feed the thermal energy storage systems, such as heat pumps which deliver hot water and heating ( (p. 57), ). Electricity will be sold to the grid only when the battery is full. Therefore, exports will play a marginal role  (p. 10), although also imports will be limited (sometimes they could even be null, as shown by  (p. 3). The economic outcome of these exchanges will depend on the volume as well as the prices of both electricity flows.
- The regulation allows prosumers to either accumulate the surplus or sell it. This decision will be taken without any influence of the state of charge of the battery, since self-sufficiency is not a priority. In this case, the sales are justified by the price perceived per kWh, although they are only allowed if surpluses are generated. Exporting electricity at a sporadically high price implies assuming the risk that, in the future, it will have to be imported at a (hopefully) lower price. The reality is obviously much more complex: in addition, the prosumer has to predict the generation and consumption profile, at least for the next day . Differently from the previous case, micro-generators need to constantly receive information on (wholesale) electricity prices, which implies their connection to a smart grid. If, at the end of the billing period, or maybe the natural year, there aren’t any net electricity imports, the mPVG would have reached the so-called zero net energy condition  (p. 3). This usually involves new or fully refurbished buildings because it requires a broad implementation of energy efficiency and saving measures  (pp. 284–285).
- The regulation allows mPVG to freely interact with the grid. Exports and imports can take place at any time, whether there is a surplus of self-produced electricity or not. The stored electricity can also be sold to the grid. The only motivation for prosumers would be that the (sale or purchase) price is attractive at such moment. If the price of electricity is not attractive, the level of the instantaneous self-consumption will be reduced or the status of the battery will be ignored. The goal of the prosumer, who is aware of the information on prices provided by the smart grid, is to seize the opportunities. Obviously these will be commercial prosumers.
4. Economic Effects of Grid Interaction and Regulatory Features
- Only with imports in the intervals (0, t1) and (t5, T).
- Using a mix of imports and instantaneous self-consumption between (t1, t2).
- With instantaneous self-consumption between (t2, t3).
- With a mix of instantaneous self-consumed energy and energy from the battery between (t3, t4).
- Only with previously stored electricity almost between (t4, t5).
- Demand satisfied from the grid:
- Instantaneous self-consumption starts. The O&M costs of the plant (generation and battery) have been ignored.
- PV excess energy is directed to storage or exported:
- Load partially or totally satisfied from the storage:
- When the PV plant is not generating and the battery is empty, all the consumed electricity comes from the grid.
- When the PV plant is on, electricity is instantaneously consumed in case of no surplus. However, in case of a surplus of electricity, the battery is fully charged and, then, energy is exported.
- Regarding the role of load management, in this case the prosumer is not connected to a smart grid. He concentrates his consumption in the periods of surplus electricity (after all, ah ≪ et). This does not undermine the objective to charge the battery to its maximum level and to use load management rules in order to reduce the imported electricity. Therefore, energy savings and efficiency are no longer the only objective of the load management.
5. The mPVG with Limited Arbitrage (or Partial Self-Sufficiency)
- The house does not have a battery which is able to store electricity for several days.
- The prosumer (or its aggregator), who is connected to a smart grid, has a device which is able to predict the retail price some hours in advance and act accordingly. It can also receive and accept, or not, anticipated offers on imports. Furthermore, the device collects and interprets prices instantaneously. This implies that the traditional flat rates have been displaced by time-of-use rates, which are probably highly influenced by wholesale electricity prices.
- Focusing micro-generation in self-sufficiency, which is achieved establishing derisory selling prices for delivered surpluses, limiting the volume or setting up time restrictions to electricity exports, restricting permitted plant capacities and so on.
- Incentivizing the presence of prosumers in the electricity market by favouring the investment in smart grids, ensuring sufficient payment for surpluses, subsidizing installations or setting up generous capacity limits for commercial micro-generation.
- The expected cost trends of systems used in mPVG look promising, including the batteries and auxiliary equipment. In a few years, the cost of kWh for a mPVG plant with storage system may potentially be in the range of €cents/kWh 5 to 10 . This number may be competitive with the retail electricity price in many places, beyond the sunniest ones.
- If this dynamic holds, regulatory details related to the design of microgeneration economic conditions may only delay, but not remove, the incentive to deploy mPVG for partial and commercial self-sufficiency. Burdening mPVG with additional costs (e.g., the access tariff) or pay very low prices for exports only slow down what is unavoidable: the emergence of new types of prosumers in electricity markets.
- The issue of operational complexity should be considered in depth. It is crucial to develop easy interfaces and introduce simple codes to manage the mPVG plants  (p. 36).
7. Conclusions and Future Research
Institutional Review Board Statement
Informed Consent Statement
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
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|Microgeneration, Electricity Markets and Self-Sufficiency||Connection to the Main Grid||Organizational Level of Microgeneration Market|
|Level of self-sufficiency||Residual||A smart grid is required||Interconnection of several micro grids||High|
|Partial||Connection-to-separated micro grid||Low|
|PV Plant||Flows of Electricity|
|It is generating||Electricity surplus||To the battery *|
|No surplus||Instantaneous self-consumption|
|No generation||Battery discharging until its depletion (better if this happens on the following day) **|
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Mir-Artigues, P.; del Río, P. Prosumers’ Behavior under a Regulation That Encourages Strict Self-Sufficiency. The Case of Spanish Photovoltaic Micro-Generation. Energies 2021, 14, 1114. https://doi.org/10.3390/en14041114
Mir-Artigues P, del Río P. Prosumers’ Behavior under a Regulation That Encourages Strict Self-Sufficiency. The Case of Spanish Photovoltaic Micro-Generation. Energies. 2021; 14(4):1114. https://doi.org/10.3390/en14041114Chicago/Turabian Style
Mir-Artigues, Pere, and Pablo del Río. 2021. "Prosumers’ Behavior under a Regulation That Encourages Strict Self-Sufficiency. The Case of Spanish Photovoltaic Micro-Generation" Energies 14, no. 4: 1114. https://doi.org/10.3390/en14041114