The clean energy transition is a must, European Climate Action and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete told the 10th Citizens’ Energy Forum in Dublin on September 20, noting that two thirds of carbon dioxide emissions are related to the use and production of energy. “The record temperatures seen in much of Europe this summer have reminded us that climate change impacts our daily lives. As President (Jean-Claude) Juncker said in his recent State of the European Union speech, ‘We cannot turn a blind eye to the challenge in front of our noses,’” Cañete said.
The 10th Citizens’ Energy Forum in Dublin, Ireland, is a dedicated platform to implement and enforce consumer rights in the energy market across the European Union and celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. This year’s edition takes place, for the very first time in Dublin, Ireland. Previously all gatherings of this forum had taken place in London, United Kingdom.
The forum is organised by the European Commission in collaboration with the Irish independent energy and water regulator (CRU). The meeting will focus on providing a fair deal to consumers and the role consumers play in the energy market in the context of the empowering measures proposed in the Commission’s Clean Energy for all Europeans package and the recently adopted New Deal for Consumers package. It also focuses on presenting innovative solutions in the retail energy market in terms of consumer engagement and business models.
“This year’s edition marks the Forum’s 10th anniversary and it is the first time that Dublin hosts this event. Our decision to move this event from London to Dublin is a political signal. Ireland is and will remain an integral member of the EU, and the Commission is fully committed to helping Ireland with the particular challenges that it may face in the months and years ahead. Also in the field of energy,” Cañete said reminding that the opening of the Irish energy markets to competition serves as a useful model for others – with clear benefits to consumers. “Ireland has also been spearheading the particular challenge of integrating high shares of variable renewables safely into its power system,” he said.
Cañete reiterated that consumer orientation has been a key concern under this Commission as we have demonstrated in particular with our Clean Energy for all Europeans package. “The consumer should be able to directly benefit from the clean energy transition and to become an active player. The clean energy transition is a new opportunity for the modernization of our economy, by spurring investments it will bring growth and jobs for Europeans,” the Commissioner said.
“So what are we doing? As a global community, the world has signed up to the Paris Agreement to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and limit the rise in temperature of the Planet. And a central element to achieving this is the energy transition – shifting towards a cleaner and more efficient energy system,” he said. “At EU level we have already put in place most of the legislative framework needed to deliver on our commitments. The last pieces of the puzzle we need to agree on are our new internal market rules – and these are of particular importance to ensure consumers will play their full part in this transition.
And my main message today is that the energy transition cannot succeed without a new role for the consumer,” Cañete said.
“The clean energy transition is well underway,” he said, noting that renewables now account for over 30% of electricity generation in the EU, and in recent years have overtaken coal, gas and nuclear power to become the main power source. “And we are well on track for meeting our 2020 target for the share of renewables in the overall energy mix. By 2030, over half of our electricity is expected to come from renewables,” he said.
This growth has also meant that the costs of these technologies are coming down, the Commissioner said, adding that, for example, the price in Europe has dropped by more than 70% in the last 10 years for solar panels and by more than 25% for onshore wind. “We now see more and more auctions for renewable energy with no subsidy and relying only on wholesale prices, such as offshore wind in the North Seas and Solar power in Portugal,” Cañete said. “We are also making progress on Energy Efficiency. Taken together, this is not only reducing fossil fuel imports and slowing down emissions in the EU, but it is also driving innovation and investment,” he added.
Cañete also stressed the importance of ensuring consumers can benefit from competitive prices as the energy transition gathers pace. “For this a rapid and ambitious agreement on our newly proposed electricity market rules is essential. Achieving the energy transition will require an important transformation of the energy system characterized by more variable renewable energies, greater decentralization and greater digitalization. The new electricity market design proposals will enable these developments by making markets more flexible and hence more efficient,” he said.
According to the Commissioner, the EU is also already supporting a range of important energy infrastructures aimed at improving connections between the Member States, and at enhancing the bloc’s security of supply. For example, the EU is supporting the Celtic Interconnector, which will be the first direct link between Ireland and the Continent, and the only one to connect Ireland within the EU after Brexit, with a total amount of close to €8 million, he said, stressing that a more integrated and interconnected single energy market will improve competitiveness. By offering a larger market, it will encourage more investment in clean innovative technologies. And to take the example of Ireland, it is clear that using its full potential for renewable energy production will only be possible if the country is strongly integrated in the internal market, he said, adding that all of this will keep the costs of the energy transition low, while at the same time providing new opportunities for small businesses and start-ups to invest in new technologies and digitalization and create jobs. “But the other side of the coin is that the benefits of more efficient and better integrated wholesale markets need to reach consumers – and more so than in the past,” he said.
Finally, Cañete said that all these moves towards a more competitive energy sector must go hand in hand with enhanced consumer participation in the energy transition. “This concerns, on the one hand, the possibility for consumers to make an informed choice among a wide range of offers. It is for this reason that we have proposed better access to dynamic price contracts, to reliable and certified price comparison tools as well as to clearer information on energy bills. There is persistent evidence that consumers continue to lose money by sticking to unfavourable contracts and this is unnecessary,” he said. “If we can find an ambitious agreement with Parliament and Council on these measures, it will in our view be the best guarantee that consumers participate in a more efficient energy transition. And if I may add, a much better guarantee than regulating consumer prices directly or indirectly as the Irish example has demonstrated,” Cañete said.