The 11th Citizens’ Energy Forum welcomed Youth representatives from across Europe to join the discussion on achieving an inclusive energy transition for all and the role of consumers in the changing energy market, alongside policymakers, energy regulators and consumer organisations in Dublin on Thursday, September 12, to Friday, September 13.
Opening the event, Deputy Director-General of DG ENER, Klaus-Dieter Borchadt, said: “Over the last two years we have discussed the role of consumers in the energy transition intensively in this forum to prepare the Clean Energy Package. Now we are looking forward and discussing the implementation and application of this legal framework. We are asking have we done enough to empower the consumers, to protect the consumers, and to make them aware of the opportunities and possibilities.”
MEP Jerzy Buzek then spelled out the importance of the Clean Energy Package when he said: “In recent months, we witnessed big protests in Europe from the young generation for pro climate and the yellow jackets in France protesting high energy prices. Both these issues have the same denominator, which is the energy transition. That is why the Clean Energy Package for all Europeans is so important.”
The Forum, which meets annually to explore consumers' perspective and role in the EU energy market, consisted of workshops on engaging citizens in the energy transition, sustainable finance for greener and cleaner energy for consumers, and the next step in the energy transition for consumers. There was also a Citizens' Dialogue as an integral part of the forum.
The Citizens' Dialogue with Youth took place as an interactive plenary where the moderator, Professor Jean-Michel Glachant of the Florence School of Regulation, hosted an audience that also included representatives of Youth organisations from across Europe and different parts of Ireland.
The audience were also addressed by expert panellists, including young activist Dan Hatter (Fridays for the Future), Green Party MEP Ciarán Cuffe, Director General of European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) Monique Goyens, President of the Council or European Energy Regulators (CEER) Annegret Groebel and the European Commission’s Acting Director for Consumers Marie-Paule Benassi.
Outlining that that there are different consumers in the energy market, from poor and passive consumers to active and conscious consumers, Jean-Michel Glachant set the tone for the session to be all encompassing of the different spectra of their needs and voices.
“We have very diverse groups of consumers that will benefit in different ways from the novelties and new markets. Each one will not be asking the same question. That is the issue we have and the issue we will look at with a group of fantastic panellists,” said Jean-Michel.
Throughout the session, the audience was polled through the participatory tool Sli.do on questions such as who has the most responsibilities to deliver climate action. Are you willing to delegate some of your energy consumption decisions to a smart home device? There was some surprise when it appeared that half the audience of energy professionals and stakeholders did not know their own home’s annual energy cost. The Sli.do results are available to download below.
Dan Hatter told the audience about how he became active in school strikes following the movement started by Greta Thunberg in Stockholm, Sweden that spread out across the globe. Using his own story, Dan urged other young people to get involved at whatever scale they could to make a change.
“Apathy was common amongst people our age. But as we started noticing the effects of climate change more and more, there was a point for us where that apathy turned to action. I think the reason this resonated so much with young people, and Greta Thunberg put it so succinctly, is because of the right to have a future,” said Dan.
Appealing to the audience, Dan added: “I have become active. We have seen a lot of change in the world where young people were not necessarily involved in making change happen. What I just want to say to everyone is get involved, no matter at what scale, you can influence your world for the better if you work together with others.”
Following up, Green Party MEP Ciarán Cuffe noted that there has been a lot done in Europe through the Clean Energy Package and the Renewable Energy Directive to implement green initiatives but stressed that “a real move at a nation state level” was needed.
“I think it’s a really interesting moment to join up the dots between European policy and local policy. We are in an emergency and I think the mood and the feeling has really changed over the last 12 months. We are beginning to see that very direct link between what the scientists are telling us and the imperative for political action. So, we have to move, and we have to move fast,” he said.
Monique Goyens, BEUC, highlighted the need to preserve consumer trust in personal data gathering as a key factor in the energy discussion. “There is a lot of sensitive data that can be included in the digital ecosystem through smart devices, from what you put in your smart fridge to how you interact with the energy system at home. If that data can be shared with people that you do not want to have access to it, then that is a threat to consumer trust,” said Monique.
While, energy regulator Annegret Groebel took the opportunity to point out the importance of consumers taking the step to become active, to truly benefit from policies to protect and empower them. “We can provide a level playing field, but it is in the end the consumer who has to make the decision in order to take advantage of the benefits that these new flexible systems provide,” she said.
Focusing on the contribution of DG Justice and Consumers to President-elect Ursula von der Leyen’s comprehensive and encompassing Green Deal, Marie-Paule Benassi switched the discussion to the use of e-scooters, which are becoming more prevalent on European streets. Using the electric vehicles as an example, Marie-Paule stressed the difficulty of making eco-friendly consumer decisions in the fast-pace of everyday life. She then went on to outline some of the upcoming work programme for the DG in helping to achieve the target of making Europe carbon neutral by 2050.
“Our contribution in DG Justice and Consumers will be the revision of the General Product Safety Directive. We are going to update this and strengthen enforcement and the environment part in it. We will also focus on Corporate Social Governance to see how the companies can also do their part to have a convergence of interests. And in more typical consumer law measures, we want to see how we can empower the consumer and give them the tools they need to make the right choices,” said Marie-Paule.
The panel then answered questions from the audience on a number of issues from legalising e-scooters in Ireland, to the Commission’s environmental strategic assessments, the environmental and other impact of electric cars. Concluding the session, Jean-Michel Glachant called on young people to continue to push the boundaries saying: “Young people have to influence the rules because the rules have been designed by the older generation not understanding that we have to stop the world war with nature and the climate. That is what the younger generation is fully aware of so please become active.”
The full conclusions from the 11th Citizens' Energy Forum and Slido results from the interactive plenary session are available to download below.