Ed’s note: The rise of the green consumer

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Smart meters can assist EU citizens to make consumption choices that will help increase energy efficiency. For that to happen, however, DSOs must enable consumer engagement and help educate their customers on the benefits of new technologies. Do they though?

Mariusz Jurczyk, Director of Distribution Services Sales Department at the Polish DSO TAURON Dystrybucja S.A, noted during a recent Enlit Europe 365 Data Series webinar that, unfortunately, “three out of four main benefits for the deployment of smart metering are not linked to customers”. In his opinion, “this is the signal for countries that are implementing smart meters that they should not forget about the consumers and should highlight the benefits that smart meters bring to them”.

Watch on demand:
Episode – Smart Meter Marathon Part 1: Smart Utility Open Meters
Epsisode – Smart Meter Marathon Part 2: Knock, knock, your smart meter is calling

The problem is not that consumers are indifferent to climate change and sustainable energy solutions. On the contrary, according to Mariusz Jurczyk’s research, “the green process around the world is growing. In Poland alone, for example, we see an almost 100% growth of photovoltaic installations connected to the grid”.

Some more facts regarding the green process in the world:

  • Australia: Home energy generation with solar PVs is the fastest growing in the world
  • Scandinavian countries: They are leading the shift to electric vehicles.
  • Germany: Over 300k homes have installed battery storage systems.
  • UK: The number of energy communities is growing fast, with nowadays reaching about 300 in the entire country.
  • Poland: According to TAURON Dystrybucja (DSO), the PVs connected to the grid are still growing each year.

The smart consumer nowadays does make the connection between green products and services such as electric vehicles and smart home appliances (smart thermostats, smart meters) and climate change. The prosumers do realise that their green solutions lead to energy efficiency which in turn leads to a cleaner, greener life.

But, of course, they also expect more concrete and short term benefits from their choices. For example, lower energy bills, real-time energy monitoring and elevated safety (both from a grid resilience and cybersecurity point of view). And this is still a work in progress.

Moreover, even those conscientiously supporting energy efficiency are indeed in need of further education on how new technologies – like smart meters and smart thermostats – can affect their energy usage and deliver positive results on their savings expectations. And this is where flexible, yet robust regulation is needed, as well as a solid collaboration between DSOs, TSOs, local regulatory authorities and the EU Commission.

Have you read?
The emergence of the smart energy consumer
Prosumers in Europe a growing trend

One way forward would be the adoption of an open data strategy, where consumers are in control of their own energy data and collaborate with both utilities and regulators for the common good. In other words, a utilitarian approach to the energy sector might be in order. One that respects the whole, but also the individual, while having in mind the greater good.

After all, according to Chris Martin, partner for Pinsent Masons LLP, “a strategy for a modern digitalised energy system needs to have the consumer in a central position. But in order to make the most of the smart meter infrastructure, we also need access to the volumes of data produced by them. We need to create a system, where open data is almost the default setting”. But of course, all that after taking into consideration the opinion and needs of the physical owner of the data, which is the energy consumer.

In any case, an open and in depth dialogue among utilities, regulators and consumers is very much needed, if the EU wants to stay loyal to its core values, but also remain competitive. What do you think? I would be keen to hear your thoughts via editorial@smart-energy.com.

Cheers,

Areti Ntaradimou
Editor, Smart Energy International