Driving Change to Green Energy Solutions

Juan Sacri is the co-founder of AEIOLUZ – a cooperative that aims to change current energy models and switch to green energy solutions. Based in The Nest Space, the cooperative provides energy saving education and assessment services to people in La Comunitat Valenciana.

Juan’s passion? Connecting with people and the environment – something he carries through his work.

His presence does not go unnoticed in The Nest Space. His approachability and his enthusiasm for energy and the environment is something the community highly values. These qualities encourage collaboration – an inherent aspect of The Nest community that leads to making, creating and growing impact. I first met Juan at a meeting during one of my first days in the space. Along with The Nest Space’s Founder – Margarita Albors – we discussed the space’s energy efficiency and reduced consumption. Thanks to AEIOLUZ, The Nest has been able to reduce both its environmental footprint by 100% using renewable energy and reduce annual electricity costs by 45% (€1,902 approx.).

Sitting down with him for a second time, we delved deeper – discussing the development of AEIOLUZ, impact measurement and an approach to the environmental challenge.

Developing the idea

Growing up surrounded by fields of orange trees in the coastal town of Canet d’en Berenguer (approx. 30 kilometres north of Valencia) Juan has been in contact with nature from a young age. So as an engineer studying a Master’s degree in Engineering in industrial management, renewable and sustainable energy caught his attention. Part of his Master’s degree was spent as an intern in Sweden and later in Holland, where he specialised in wind energy.

After completing his Master’s, he spent an additional four years working in the Dutch renewable energy sector. When he returned to Valencia in 2014, the comfort of its familiarity and his recent experience abroad inspired him to innovate and create. But for his ideas to gain any momentum, he would need to return to University. So he undertook a Master’s degree in Business and Marketing at ESIC in Valencia. Here, Juan met his would be co-founders Salva Moncayo and José Cerdán. Realising their Master’s projects were similar, they decided to work together. A common business idea began to take form – a cooperative to drive a change towards green energy solutions.

First known as EIRE Energia, they intended to commercialise green energy solutions. However, after foreseeing high costs and an associated risk, their business model changed. EIRE Energia became AEIOLUZ – a services cooperative aimed at driving change through education, education and assessment. The ultimate objective? To create a culture of energy and environmental awareness to facilitate energy transition in la Comunitat Valenciana. Today, AEIOLUZ provides three services: (1) energy education and training; (2) energy efficiency assessment; and (3) green energy solutions.

Energy Education

Escola d’Energia (Energy School) by AEIOLUZ provides energy education to all users – children and adults. The workshops allow users to obtain an understanding of environmental and energy-related issues, as well as their practical solutions. Children are introduced to the problems associated with energy consumption and homeowners are shown how to reduce their electricity bills. Their workshops include Energy Transition, Energy Technology for children, Management of Fuel Poverty and Energy Transition for Municipalities.

Students attend AEIOLUZ’s Energy Evolution Workshop

Energy Efficiency

The cooperative also provides a consultation service to small and medium-sized enterprises in the Valencian community. ‘Me sorprende mucho,’ reflected Juan, ‘what surprises me is how few companies take their electricity bills seriously’. He explained that companies tend to see paying their electricity bill as another task in the monotony of monthly company accounting.

After conducting assessments on company energy consumption, clients have changed energy providers and have even switched to cleaner, green energy solutions, while employee energy education sensitises them to the issue. Through simple actions, businesses can save thousands of euros per year. AEIOLUZ has also found that some of their clients’ electricity contracts are completely unsuited to their needs. Increase awareness, decrease expense – a new approach to balancing the books.

The cooperative also works with local governments to deal with pobreza energetica – fuel poverty. Juan explained that fuel poverty occurs where you cannot keep your home above 19°C in winter and below 25°C in summer due to unaffordability. A study found that 21 to 22 percent of the population of Valencia are at risk of fuel poverty. Similar studies have been conducted in England, where families have had to make the decision whether to ‘eat or heat’ in winter. Now, AEIOLUZ is working with the local council in Valencia to develop a public service that provides users with qualified technicians who consult and increase the affordability and efficiency of household energy contracts.

Green Energy Solutions

Green energy solutions encourage ‘autoabastecimiento’ (quite a mouthful for the non-native) ‘self-sufficiency’. Under AEIOLUZ’s self-sufficiency services, an assessment is made of your home, project or company’s energy requirements and the cooperative then facilitates and assists with the installation of green energy solutions such as solar electricity systems.

There is no shortage of sunshine for potential green energy solutions in La Comunitat Valenciana

The objective being the development of energy self-sufficient households and long-term reductions in costs.

Impact Measurement

While AEIOLUZ’s impact is primarily environmental, Juan emphasised that is only part of the big picture. The cooperative is also social – empowering and educating users, creating a culture of environmental and energy awareness that inspires change. Here, Juan’s passion for people and the environment trickles down through the business model, and ultimately to final users.

AEIOLUZ’s social and environmental impact can be seen clearly measured on their website. Impact is measured according to four indicators: 331 People Reached; 603 Kilograms of CO2 prevented; 239 Contributed to other social projects; and 646 MWh managed.

The Environmental Challenge

The current energy culture and legislation framework in Spain makes the change in model and switch to self-sufficient green energy solutions difficult. The impuesto al sol – a ‘sun tax’ unique to Spain – places an additional cost on auto-consumption of solar energy as it is viewed in some way as anti-social. While in late 2016 the Spanish government announced it would be making a revision of the tax, an official change is yet to come. Despite such barriers, AEIOLUZ is still capable of providing solutions that empower energy transition at your home, business or municipality while fulfilling Spanish legal requirements.

Such circumstances add to the challenge for change and a switch to green energy solutions here in Spain. However, Juan alluded to the importance of a more comprehensive, long-term and sustained view.

“The problem is the earth’s resources are finite and as such, economies cannot grow infinitely. So the greatest challenge is to suitably manage our resources so that everyone has a dignified, fair life. The challenge will be overcome when people are conscious and aware that a scarcity of resources means that together we have to use them responsibly.

“If you want to go quickly, go alone,” he quoted, “and if you want to go far, go with company”.

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