How to make sure that all Europeans can participate and financially benefit from the transition to a cleaner, climate-friendly energy system? How to enable EU citizens to reliably gain access to energy? How to protect the most vulnerable groups in our societies from being cut-off from heat, light and technology? Prosumers have the answers!
This new group of "consumers that produce" the very object of their need - energy - has become the new player in an extremely complex market. Prosumers may operate as individual households or as cooperatives, often at the local level, and are both producers and consumers of energy generated by mini-wind turbines, photovoltaic panels, solar collectors and heat pumps for instance. The economic advantages of prosumer energy are manifold, such as better use of local energy sources and economic activation of local communities but also lower energy transmission costs.
But, if producing clean energy in a decentralized manner to supplement the market and replacing fossil fuels have made it necessary to transform energy systems, it is also important to introduce rules on the participation of these new players in the market.
"Supporting prosumers is of utmost importance for a new way of producing and consuming energy", said Janusz Pietkiewicz, EESC rapporteur on the opinion unanimously voted in October, "however, national authorities have to watch out to avoid distorting competition between all operators and also respect that not all consumers want to become producers. It is crucial that solutions to encourage development of prosumer energy are sustainable over the long term."
Solutions to support prosumers, such as taxes, tariffs and lifting other charges, are welcome, as well as partnerships between prosumers, other energy producers and companies working in the field of energy transmission and distribution.
As prosumers generate energy for their own needs but end up producing more, it is crucial to find a solution to the problem of surplus energy, notably by promoting energy storage technology and improving the interconnections between different regions with different energy production and consumption profiles in Europe.
Access to the distribution and transmission networks must be adapted to take account of the growth in prosumer energy. Prosumers should contribute to the costs arising in this connection, but transparent rules should be drawn up for contributing to these costs.
Prosumer energy is at a different stage of development in the Member States, and the EESC recommends the Commission to establish a monitoring system that would allow the exchange of good practices and regular assessments.
The EESC believes that the benefits of prosumer energy should be mobilized as an important element of an active policy of reducing energy poverty and protecting particularly socially vulnerable groups, strengthening regional economic development, as well in addressing issues connected with the silver economy and the ageing society. The involvement of civil society organisations, as well as local and regional authorities, will be key in this respect.
EESC Opinion "Prosumer Energy and Prosumer Power Cooperatives: Opportunities and challenges in the EU countries", rapporteur Janusz PIETKIEWICZ, 19/10/2016