Louise Sunderland, an independent consultant and a member of the Energy Advice Exchange, has written this important article on her initial reaction to having read the Commission’s winter package, entitled ‘Clean Energy for all Europeans’ that was published on November 30th. We would now like to get your views.
Commission’s Winter Package: “consumers are the real drivers of the energy transition” but there is a blind spot in the role of the consumer
Like many, I have spent a few cold and dark days over the last week tucked up poring over the European Commission’s Winter Package entitled Clean Energy for all Europeans. The package of new measures and changes to existing elements of the energy framework is presented in the context of the 2030 decarbonisation goals, the desire to modernise the European economy and “designed to show that the clean energy transition is the growth sector of the future”.
From the press information, background blurb and justificatory explanations, it looks relatively promising. There is justified focus on buildings and raising the rate and depth of renovation. And the three headline goals of the package are putting energy efficiency first, global leadership on renewable energy and a fair deal for consumers.
The focus on consumers is particularly welcome in the trio of goals as I would argue it is very difficult to put energy efficiency first without putting consumers first.
As I worked my way through the many pages of documents my confidence waned. Not just due to the headline lack of anything really new or convincing that that will deliver against the new 2030 energy efficiency target (beside the extension of the Energy efficiency obligations to 2030 which is expected to deliver half of the additional savings). But there is a clear hole, a blind spot almost, where consumers are concerned.
Across the package documents, consumers feature quite heavily in their capacity to engage in the energy markets as consumers of energy (in their right to access accurate consumption information and accurate and timely billing, and to switch supplier to keep the market on its toes), as generators of renewable energy (as individuals and communities and to consumer or sell this energy into the grid) and (a new focus) in their capacity to deliver demand response.
What is absent however is the role of the consumer in delivering the first fuel, the foundation of the Energy Union strategy, the most important energy – which is the energy that we don’t use.
Nowhere in the Winter Package could I see mention of measures to improve customers’ ability to negotiate the energy efficiency market (beyond products). The essential role of consumers in reducing the energy demand from buildings and increasing the renovation rate is overlooked.
Practical support for consumers to negotiate the complex technical, financial, legal and behavioural barriers to renovation has been the weak link of the existing energy in building package. This is a point colleagues of the Energy Advice Exchange and I made earlier this year as a result of our research and analysis. Measures rely too heavily on ill defined ‘awareness raising’ and generic information provision, not extending to support at the essential action stages of the consumer journey where stuff actually gets done. The measures currently required are completely out of kilter with the support consumers need to deliver the headline goal of achieving deep renovation of buildings and too much reliance is placed on the EPC as an effective energy renovation advice tool for consumers – which in practice and in most cases it is not.
The Winter Package proposals miss a vital opportunity to rectify this.
The Energy Advice Exchange has advocated the use of a one-stop-shop to support consumers throughout the customer journey from raised awareness to achievement of deep renovation and the accompanying behavioural changes. This concept of a one-stop-shop was picked up in the Winter Package with recommendations for Member States to develop one-stop shops for project developers – not consumers – as part of the Smart Finance for Smart Buildings initiative.
Although the Commission’s recognition for the need for support through the “whole customer journey from information, technical assistance, structuring and provision of financial support, to the monitoring of savings” is a step in the right direction, it’s focal point needs to move further down in the supply chain to refocus on the blind spot it has with regard to the consumer of energy efficiency retrofit – without which the 2030 energy efficiency target will not be met.