European citizens and businesses need increased access to secure, affordable and climate-friendly energy. In the energy industry revolution, with a decentralised, bottom-up approach that we are setting the stage for and witnessing play out, the energy consumer is the protagonist. On the 8th of July The European Consumer Organisation published the position paper “Building a consumer-centric Energy Union” which is available here. A successful Energy Union benefits the consumers. Taking current research into account and the report from the European Consumer Organisation, here are eight ways that I think the European Union should benefit consumers:
1. Improve the transparency of energy prices, so consumers can make the best energy choice
Energy markets need to improve their transparency so that consumers can make an informed decision (considering price, supplier, source etc.) about of which energy option is best for them. Simultaneously, we need to ensure that the consumers are well-informed and educated about the various energy choices. This will help consumers take ownership of the energy transition.
2. Help consumers transition to prosumers:
The Energy Union should accelerate a remuneration scheme and prosumers’ access to the grid. This will help consumers benefit from the new technologies, reduce their environmental footprint and reduce their bills.
3. Do not punish those who decide to remain consumers, and not become prosumers
Vulnerable consumers may want to, but not have the resources to, install smart meters and generate renewable electricity. The Energy Union will protect vulnerable consumers by not punishing those who cannot implement the measures immediately.
4. Manage expectations with regards to smart grid costs
The European Union’s climate and energy commissioner confirmed that smart grids alone can reduce Europe’s infrastructure needs by 30%. But investing in the smart grid is likely to affect consumers’ bills and these expectations have to be carefully managed.
5. Help consumers reduce costs with smart meters
Smart meter systems help consumers adapt their power use to the different energy prices and their needs throughout the day. Regulating the energy consumption according to the need and price not only benefits the consumer directly, it also makes more energy available on the grid for those who need it and reduces emissions. However, smart meters do not solve all energy efficiency problems for consumers, such as houses that are energy inefficient.
6. Communicate clearly so that consumers can understand
By becoming a prosumer or making an informed decision about the source of your electricity supplier, consumers can minimize their environmental footprint. This requires that the energy market is clear, transparent and simple, and that consumers can compare various options. In addition to the system, the language also needs to easily understood.
7. Issue simple bills
Energy bills are often unclear and confusing with a cumbersome pricing structure. Since consumers often do not understand their bills they spend little time trying to analyze it. The bills need to be clear and concise so that consumers can understand their energy consumption and complain or ask questions about their bills.
8. Launch price comparison websites
Price comparison websites make comparing electricity providers easier for consumers. Norway recently launched its updated price comparison website Strompris and Energy Union member states should all have this tool to help consumers compare their current contract to other providers.