From switching energy supplier to installing solar panels on the roof and becoming a member of a wind power cooperative, today’s consumers have many more ways to take control of their energy use and generation compared to a few decades ago. But are they aware of the full range of options?
Making the switch to a sustainable energy lifestyle
Selecting a new energy supplier is perhaps one of the easiest ways to get involved in the energy market. Thanks to liberalisation of the EU energy market, many consumers can easily switch from one energy supplier to another in their quest for lower prices or better green credentials.
Ways that involve higher upfront investment for longer-term financial gain include installing solar panels on the roof, installing solar water heaters or even upgrading your heating system to a biomass burner. From the energy saving perspective, retrofitting with better insulation on the roof and walls of the house are amongst the options.
Involving the whole community
Casting the net wider, opens-up options within the local community. If you live near a wind farm, for example, you may be able to buy shares in the wind farm’s operation. Community involvement on this scale has proven popular in countries like Scotland, Denmark and Germany where communities have embraced local energy production from the likes of wind power. See the session on: Solidarity and energy communities at this year’s Policy Conference.
Consumers can also do many more things within their own homes. Many people are aware of peak and off-peak tariffs, but cheaper night-time energy use doesn’t necessarily fit the modern era of renewable energy. Installing a smart meter could allow consumers to see when energy is cheapest or greenest – for example when there is an abundance of wind or solar power.
Moving from consumers to ‘prosumers’
Through its Energy Union strategy, the EU is seeking to boost the ways consumers can become ‘prosumers’. Under the strategy, consumers across the EU would be entitled to generate electricity for their own use, store it, share it or sell it back to the market. This would help households and businesses respond to price signals. For example owners of electric cars would be able to see when prices are cheapest to charge their cars.
“European Commission encourages consumers to become ‘prosumers’ generating their own electricity to use, store or sell back to the market.”
The Commission is also seeking to boost the deployment of smart meters across the EU so that energy companies can offer consumers tailor-made solutions that should see their cost of energy fall. See the session: Digitalisation of the energy sector at the Policy Conference.
Innovative and accessible ways to involve consumers is a key theme at this year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week, and accolades will be awarded at the Award Ceremony on 5 June to actions leading to the behavioural change of individual consumers, amongst the other categories of public sector, businesses and youth leadership in sustainable energy activities.
The EUSEW Policy Conference will also focus on more vulnerable energy consumers and energy poverty in the session: Energy poverty: inclusive clean energy transition and best practice.
As with any change, it only comes about when action is taken. With consumers empowered to make use of the better information on their energy options, they can make a difference to both the sustainable energy transition, and their energy bills.
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NCP Brussels Advisor for this Area: Ji-Hyeon Kim Vanguers