With an increasing share of renewable energy sources (RES) in the European Union (EU), the role of energy consumers as active participants in the energy system is bound to expand, as the developments in an increasing number of EU Member States demonstrate.
A growing number of households, public organizations and small enterprises are likely to produce energy, supply demand-side flexibility or store energy in times of oversupply. So far, however, the extent of this prosumer potential in the EU is unknown. Global and EU-wide decarbonisation scenarios typically model increasing RES capacities, but do not go into the details of how this is achieved, and what role prosumers, also referred to as energy citizens, could play in these developments. This study therefore aims to create more insight into the potential of energy citizens in the EU: how many energy citizens could there be in 2030 and 2050 throughout the EU and what is their potential contribution to renewable energy production and demand side flexibility? The main result of this project is an Excel workbook that contains the detailed quantitative findings of this study. This report provides the background information to these data, describing the context of the study and the methodology used. The study was commissioned by Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth Europe, European Renewable Energy Federation (EREF) and REScoop.
The main objective of this study is to assess the following, for a number of different categories of energy citizens: the potential installed renewable energy capacity; the potential of renewable energy generation; the potential capacity for demand side flexibility (incl. storage). Based on these data, the total number of energy citizens this represents will be derived. The study distinguishes between four energy citizen categories: individuals or households producing energy individually, individuals or households producing energy collectively, public entities and small enterprises. The renewable energy sources investigated were solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind energy, demand side flexibility focussed on the potential for electric vehicles, e-boilers and stationary batteries. Data are estimated for today, in 2030 and 2050, at EU and Member State level.
The potential for European households (individually or via energy collectives), public entities and small enterprises to become an energy citizen and to actively contribute to the future energy system is very significant. We estimate that about 83% of the EU’s households could potentially become an energy citizen and contribute to renewable energy production, demand response and/or energy storage, which amounts to about 187 million households. About half of the households, around 113 million, may have the potential to produce energy; even more could provide demand flexibility with their electric vehicles, smart e-boilers or stationary batteries. For (many) other results, we refer to the Excel workbook that was developed during the course of this study.
A calculation methodology and calculation tool was developed to estimate the potential of various energy citizen categories in 2030 and 2050, for the technical options investigated. The calculations are based as much as possible on available data, using a transparent methodology that is based on, in our view, sound reasoning. However, as the research on this topic is still limited, as is the data on the current situation, the findings are subject to many uncertainties. It is therefore recommended to follow up this study with a more in-depth assessment of the calculation methodology and findings of this study, to further enhance the robustness of the results and to determine the key drivers for these developments.
It is also recommended to further develop data gathering about energy citizens and their contribution to the energy system. Other issues that would be interesting to explore further are how this energy citizen potential can be realised, and how a future with a large number of energy citizens compares to a less decentralized development of a sustainable energy future, in terms of, for example, cost, energy security and social and economic effects.