Energy – Producing and consuming own energy key to fighting climate change and energy poverty


The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) is contributing to the strategic debate on energy infrastructure with a position that is clear and leaves no doubt: discussions must revolve around citizens if we really want them to be a lever for the green and energy transition and to ensure an economic and social balance.

Energy self-production and self-consumption must go hand in hand. Producing and consuming our own energy can help protect the environment and fight climate change while at the same time tackle the scourge of energy poverty, which affects more than 80 million Europeans.

Driven by these key ideas, Pierre Jean Coulon drafted the EESC own-initiative opinion adopted at the October plenary putting forward innovative proposals.

Both the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the International Energy Agency (IEA) regularly call for the mass roll-out of all available decarbonised technologies, including renewable energy.

The IPCC's sixth report indicates once again that climate change is accelerating and intensifying. Not a month, or even a week, goes by when we don't see it. Given the urgent need to act, the IEA recommends massively deploying all available clean energy technologies, including renewable energy.

Clean energy with a local dimension

Unlike fossil fuel or nuclear energy, these technologies have an inherently local dimension. They are connected to the geographical areas where they are based, and can be installed close to where energy is consumed. As a result, their development is leading to a revival of self-consumption in electricity, in other words direct consumption of locally produced energy.

This energy is mainly composed of photovoltaic solar and wind power, but also small-scale hydropower, while a local variation of future green hydrogen could soon be available.

For the past few years, European and in particular national legislation, especially in some countries, has supported self-consumption, whether individual consumption using photovoltaic panels on roofs, or collective consumption, including photovoltaic or wind farms installed by energy communities, local authorities, cooperatives, etc.

Producing, distributing and consuming this clean and increasingly inexpensive energy has a potential impact on both accessibility and prices. This is useful tool for fighting both energy poverty and climate change.

Citizens as masters of their own energy environment

Against this background, the Committee calls for every citizen to be genuinely placed at the heart of these trends and for both public authorities and local and regional authorities to support the developers of such projects.

The EU should encourage pooling and "smoothing" of prices in a spirit of solidarity. Such an approach would make it possible to provide practical responses to the energy poverty caused chiefly by the high prices facing many households. The same goes for non-profit initiatives.

In order to manage these processes as efficiently as possible, authorities should roll out smart meters across the European Union. This must not take place under pressure or be imposed, but with a focus on education and information.

In this way, consumers feel enabled to take real responsibility for making the best use of their data and citizens can become genuine stakeholders in their own energy environment, said Mr Coulon.