Half of EU citizens could produce their own energy by 2050

Half of all EU citizens could be producing their own electricity by 2050, and meeting 45% of the EU’s energy demand. The European energy market is switching from fossil fuels and nuclear to renewable energy, but it’s also shifting from a centralised market dominated by large utilities to one in which people produce their own energy and help to manage demand. Without these “energy citizens”, the transition to a 100% renewable energy system won’t be possible.

Some of the effects of this transformation have been calculated in a report carried out by the European Renewable Energies Federation, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the European Federation of Renewable Energy Cooperatives. The study, “The Potential of Energy Citizens in the European Union”, considers production by households, collectives, micro and small enterprises, and public entities. The technologies assessed are wind farms, solar panels, stationary batteries, electric boilers and electric vehicles.

The report estimates the number of energy citizens that exist today, as well as how many could exist by 2030 and by 2050, in individual member states and in the EU as a whole. It shows that over 264 million European Union citizens, half of the population, could be producing their own electricity by 2050. These energy citizens could be producing 611 TWh of electricity by 2030 and 1,557 TWh by 2050. Therefore, by 2030, energy citizens could be delivering 19% of the EU’s electricity demand, and 45% by 2050. This is a significant contribution to achieving the EU’s 2030 renewable energy target and moving towards a 100% renewable energy system.

From a country perspective, Germany, France and the UK have the largest potential in terms of energy generated. Sweden would lead in the proportion of citizens involved in electricity production (79 % of the population). Latvia has the highest potential for generation capacity as citizens could be meeting 83 % of the country’s electricity demand in 2050.

In 2050, collective projects and co-operatives could contribute 37% of the electricity produced by energy citizens, while microand small businesses could contribute 39%, households 23% and public entities 1%.

The report also looks at what energy citizens can contribute in demand response, by use of stationary batteries, electric vehicles and smart boilers that use energy when it’s plentiful, not when demand peaks. It shows that in 2050, seven in ten European citizens could be engaged in demand response.

Energy citizens could unlock 1,494 GWh of electric storage by 2030 and 10,490 GWh by 2050. This storage would significantly reduce system peaks and ensure clean and affordable back-up capacity. The results show that energy citizens are capable of delivering a large share of the renewable energy and demand-side flexibility needed to decarbonise Europe’s energy system

Yet, energy citizens face significant legal obstacles to making their own electricity. Throughout the European Union there are explicit legal restrictions, disproportionate administrative and planning procedures and punitive tariffs that prevent citizens from driving a renewable energy transition. With the right EU legal framework, energy citizens could flourish and deliver a significant share of Europe’s renewable energy and provide important flexibility to the energy system through demand response.

Source: CE Delft