Energy Union. What is in it for consumers?

BEUC NEWS - 11.02.2015

Energy markets are changing rapidly and consumers need guarantees they will benefit from this energy-transition. In this sense, our hopes for Europe’s energy consumers are that the creation of an Energy Union will contribute to a market which functions better.

So what would a consumer-friendly Energy Union look like?

Need for transparent retail markets

First of all, it should be easy for consumers to navigate the market. For this to happen, they need clear and accurate information on their energy consumption. They also need easily accessible, understandable, transparent and fully comparable information about available offers so that they can choose that best suited to them.

How to nudge consumers to become more active on the energy market?

We hear a lot of talk about how consumers should be “active players” in the energy market. However, currently most consumers are passive and simply want to be able to heat their homes or switch on the lights. We believe increased consumer engagement is an important factor for the future energy sector. This requires innovative ideas to empower consumers backed by an appropriate legal framework.

Incentives for energy efficiency

Energy efficiency is one of the most sustainable and cost-effective ways to save energy and is high on the agenda of many European households. However, it is essential that energy efficiency measures go hand-in-hand with incentives to ensure consumers use them and are properly audited.

At the same time, energy efficiency policies need to be better coordinated in order to support each other.

Ensure that smart technologies & new services benefit consumers

New technologies such as smart meters will open doors to new business models and a range of innovative products and services. However, it remains unclear if consumers will be able to benefit from these technologies. New products and services need to respond to consumers’ demands rather than risk confusing them further.

Moreover, as new technologies make it technically possible to process much more data than as is current practice in the energy sector, compliance with data protection rules and their enforcement must be ensured.

Protect the ‘prosumer’ too

Distribution of generated energy provides consumers with an opportunity to become their own energy producers (‘prosumers’). Although we have observed an increasing interest in self-generation, barriers still exist such as a lack of knowledge of which technology is the most suitable for different kinds of households, clear rules are still lacking and financial barriers remain. This requires further policy actions.

Making products and cars more sustainable

Last but not least, the upcoming Energy Union should highlight the importance of improving the sustainability of products we use every day as well as reducing the fuel needs of the cars we drive. This must be supplemented by simple information about energy and fuel consumption.