This pilot Renewable Energy Community, the first to be developed in Social Housing in Portugal, is an innovative project which clearly demonstrates Porto’s ambition to actively participate in the energy transition and decarbonisation of the city and the region, while also promoting social inclusion and energy poverty mitigation.
In Portugal, most of the construction is considered of poor quality, and more than 85% of the Portuguese existing building stock scores a level equal or lower than C in the energy efficiency certificates. Also, 44,5% of the housing stock was built between 1970-1990, i.e., with minimal or no-thermal requirements. Regarding social housing, around 75% of these buildings are more than 20 years old, i.e., they were constructed with minimal or no thermal requirements, thus potentiating the prevalence of energy poverty conditions in an already vulnerable population, increasing the need for energy retrofit.
The Municipality of Porto manages, through the municipal company Domus Social, a park of 46 Social Housing complexes, accounting for 13% of the total residential building stock in the Municipality and amounting to 12.500 dwellings and around 30.000 people.
The Municipality of Porto has been developing several projects for the qualification of living conditions in Social Housing, driving social inclusion and the population wellbeing. Several renovation projects are being implemented for enhanced thermal comfort and a more efficient use of energy. Focusing on the period of 2013-2020 alone, a total of 2.540 dwellings were renovated including thermal insulation, enhanced glazing, and solar hot water, in a total investment of over 100M€ leading to energy savings greater than 40% and a 50% reduction in CO2 emissions.
The recent developing legislative framework paving the way for Renewable Energy Communities opened a complementary way for continuing this work, allowing for fighting energy poverty, and also evaluate the possibility of developing related business models to further increase the energy efficiency in Social Housing, while displaying good practices and increasing the population awareness and engagement towards the energy transition.
AdEPorto (Agência de Energia do Porto) is Regional Energy Agency comprising 10 Municipalities and has been closely supporting the Municipality of Porto in developing several energy efficiency projects, including the conceptualization and design of this REC pilot.
 PTPC. 2015. Caderno de síntese tecnológica: Reabilitação de edifícios – Reflexão sobre a estratégia para a Reabilitação em Portugal, Portugal
 National Statistics Institute (INE), Social Housing Inquiry, Reference year: 2011
The REC in Social Housing projects intend to directly tackle energy poverty, while contributing to the emission reduction target of the Porto Municipality of 60% by 2030 and bringing resilience to the territory.
This project will also contribute to lead innovation and integration of storage and electrical vehicle charging infrastructure so these projects reach a higher maturity level that will allow faster and broader scaling and replication to the Porto territory and other and at the same time foster further energy efficient behaviours by the users and the shift to electric mobility.
The close monitoring of project development and performance will allow to explore alternative business models and financial schemes that will permit to overcome financial barriers to a more effective roll-out of the needed energy efficiency and renewable energy projects for fighting energy poverty.
This pilot project, and the innovation allied to its implementation, presents several advantages for the various intervening parties, from the end users (community members) with direct benefits in economic and sustainability terms, to technological entities with the possibility of testing solutions in a “real environment”, and to the Municipality which, by giving continuity to its sustainability vision, further dynamizes its assets in favour of social benefits.
It’s expected that the REC will supply at least 30% of Social Housing electricity needs while offering tariffs which will be 30% lower than current market prices.
It is also intended, based on the analysis of the implementation and operation of this pilot, to assess the possibility of developing business models that allow a faster replication by reducing the required investment by the end users, facilitating their adhesion to RECs, reducing associated risks, accumulating savings in the energy bill, improving living conditions, and the opportunity to also play an active role in the energy transition.
The multiple societal and sustainability challenges talked by this project are sufficiently relevant to ensure the community engagement in implementation.
The physical implementation phase has not yet started but the track record in implementing energy efficiency in Social Housing, and at large, by the actors involved ensures confidence in very positive results, also leveraged by an intense local community engagement since the very start of implementation.
Stay tuned for the next developments!