Smart grid enables bidirectional energy and information flow between the user and the grid, allowing users not only to consume, but also to generate and share excess energy with the grid operator or with other consumers.

It has big implications for decentralized energy in terms of a potential prosumer-led electric power system. We are seeing more and more tech innovation aimed at making the energy user autonomous, but, at the moment, it seems the preserve of an early adopter elite.

Prosumer graphicIt will feature in discussion at the forthcoming COGEN Europe – The Power of Heat conference in Brussels next week as delegates convene and look to keep pace with the proliferation of technologies consuming what had been, up to a few years ago, a relatively quiet sector.

Digitalization has changed all that and have brought ‘grid edge technologies’ very much to the fore in the battle to decarbonize the overall energy sector.

Last week alone we have seen E.ON extend its ‘Solar Roof’ offering to the UK and Italy, the UK government launch a £102 million investment programme in new local energy, and Germany’s sonnen accepting a large investment in its operations from Shell.

In addition recent features on the site, such as Molly Webb’s take on the potential for transactive energy along with the work E.ON and Green Energy Wallet are doing on EV home charging, and everything appears to point to the household (and small business owner) and the prosumer being masters of his or her own destiny as very much the norm and soon.

However is the world set up structurally in such a way that anybody other than the usual elite, and often wealthier, early adopters, can participate?

Utilities are more involved now after initially resisting what is a major threat to their business model, while national policymakers are still playing catch-up on facilitating the new mode.

There is also the trend towards more home rental to be considered. Even the most environmentally conscious cannot participate if they don’t own their living quarters and in cities, where most people live, this is a frequent scenario.

Hans Korteweg, Managing Director of COGEN Europe recently stated, in relation to the EU’s Clean Energy Package, in the Parliament Magazine that, “Policymakers must empower the prosumer by ensuring that the Electricity Market Design facilitates the connection of cogeneration to the grid, continues to provide priority of dispatch and removes administrative barriers to electricity self-production and -consumption.”

“The Clean Energy Package is a unique opportunity for European citizens to play an active role in the energy transition.”

Success in making headway for the prosumer and the success of decentralized energy technologies are strongly linked, but there is plenty to do yet in clearing the path.