Contributing to the blog this week is Marine Cornelis, director and founder of Next Energy Consumer, EUSEW 2020 Digital Ambassador.
Since the opening of the energy supply market, the European Union has been championing energy consumers’ rights. Citizens are to get a better deal, including the ability to track and manage their energy use while being protected against market imbalances. The Clean Energy for All Europeans package has increased those rights and created future-proof empowerment tools, enabling consumers to make sustainable choices and become central actors of the energy transition.
In practice, awareness and information are fundamental. The EU does not (yet) guarantee a “right to energy”, but all households have the right to an electrical connection with the supplier of their choice, and with the type of energy they want to use. A national contact point for energy helps consumers to get to know their options. Certified price-comparison tools help them compare the various offers on the market confidently, allowing consumers to switch quickly from one supplier to another. When they subscribe to a new contract, they receive clear and transparent information. They have the right to withdraw from this contract and to turn to an out-of-court body, such as an ombudsman, a regulatory authority or a consumer body, to help them resolve any possible dispute. Disputes can happen if the supplier or the Distribution Systems Operator does not precisely track the energy consumption, or if a bill is not accurate. Invoices should be clear and based on reliable data, which can be provided in particular using smart meters. All consumers, especially the energy-poor and the vulnerable, should be protected and receive adequate safeguards.
Energy efficiency standards (labels) and energy performance certificates are also useful tools that help consumers to save money and to use energy more efficiently. For instance, in the heating sector, the Horizon 2020 HARP project encourages consumers to use more efficient heating systems and make better choices.
The Clean Energy for All Europeans package is further empowering consumers to actively participate and to get the best out of digitalisation and new ways of producing energy in order to address climate change. Citizens can become active consumers, or “prosumers”. They can join energy communities; they can produce, store and consume or resell the electricity to the grid. They can also choose dynamic pricing to consume at different points in time, for instance, when there is more renewable energy available. They can also establish a contractual relationship with an aggregator without the consent of the supplier. These measures enable consumers to become agents of change, regardless of their personal circumstances or priorities.
The challenge will therefore be for consumers to take ownership of these new rights and opportunities. Each Member State will have to implement these provisions effectively through their national policies. It is by working closely together at local, national and European level and by creating synergies between the public and private sectors that citizens will become the fundamental driving force for change.
Marine is the director and founder of Next Energy Consumer, a Turin-based policy consultancy focused on the social aspects of the energy and climate transitions. She launched her company to help build a just transition, after having worked as an EU energy rights advocate for many years in Brussels.
Disclaimer: This article is a contribution from a Digital Ambassador. All rights reserved.
Neither the European Commission nor any person acting on behalf of the Commission is responsible for the use that might be made of the information in the article. The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) only and should not be considered as representative of the European Commission’s official position.