The role of people in the energy transition was at the heart of the agenda of a meeting this week of the EU’s European Economic and Social Committee (EESC).

“The energy transition cannot be successful if all stakeholders are not on board – we have to take into account the needs of all actors involved,” said the president of the EESC’s Section for Transport, Energy, Infrastructure and the Information Society, Pierre Jean Coulon.

“The reason we have energy is to serve a final purpose, to simplify citizens’ life, including families and businesses. Without energy, our basic needs are not met: there is no education, health system or transport.”

The meeting heard that the energy transition “means a fundamental transformation of our societies and affects everybody’s day-to-day life. It is not only about climate change, greenhouse gas reduction and the use of new technologies: it represents an opportunity for structural change where citizens need to play a key role. The issue of citizen participation is central.”

The meeting heard that the rapidly declining costs of decentralized renewable technologies offer a large wealth of opportunities to less advanced regions to boost their local economy and to citizens to become energy prosumers.

“If a citizen installs seven solar panels on the roof, he produces as much electricity as a normal electric car will need for one year in the future,” said EESC member Lutz Ribbe.

Ribbe stressed that some regions, cities, and vulnerable groups may be left behind in this process, and that is why it is crucial “to pursue a new path, by creating regional renewable energy cycles and interconnecting energy and regional policies. We can help address energy poverty via renewable energy production if there is the political will.”

Vincent Berrutto, representing EASME, the European Commission’s executive agency for SMEs, pointed out that energy policy no longer driven by awareness-raising but instead by empowering consumers, helping them take action and supporting them with new energy services.