Prosumer: Word of the Day
By Morgan Pierce
Updated July 10, 2023
Achieving Climate Neutrality
A week or so back, Marie Donnelly, Chairperson of the Climate Change advisory Council, voiced the hope that Ireland would follow other EU countries in harnessing the power of the energy its citizens produce for themselves and their communities. “I would like people to become active electricity consumers,” she told the Irish Times, “to allow the democratisation of electricity in a decarbonized world.”
Like the rest of the EU, Ireland is committed to the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change, and planning to become climate neutral by 2050. Achieving that goal, though, will require the transformation of Europe’s energy infrastructure, and Ireland’s with it.
Energy use accounts for 91% of the EU’s Greenhouse Gas emissions. The bloc’s “energy efficiency first” policy has thus far encouraged member states to reduce emissions by reducing energy consumption, through efficiency and other savings-orientated measures.
It’s time now, though, to target emissions from the energy use that remains – by increasing the use of renewables and drastically cutting or eliminating the use of fossil fuels. Given that renewables currently supply only 22% of the total energy in the EU, that will be a challenge.
Supported by growth in wind power and solar, electricity will be at the forefront of a decarbonized energy sector. Until now, electricity has been produced in a highly centralized way – by a small number of large power plants producing large amounts of energy.
The Role of the Prosumer
Renewable technologies create new opportunities for citizens to become energy producers themselves and to actively contribute to the energy transition. As the number of wind turbines and solar panels increases, the energy system will become more decentralised with a large number of relatively small-scale production locations. This is possible, for example, when households and businesses install rooftop solar PV.
This type of active participation by citizens is called “prosumption” and people who actively engage in the practice are “prosumers” — terms that capture the concept that these citizens are both producers and consumers. From a technical point of view, almost every citizen in the EU can become a prosumer.
While the government needs to lead the way with cogent and clear environmental policies, only sustained action by educated and empowered citizens can make the critical transformation possible.
If you are reading this, you are likely one of those who already keenly aware of climate change and want to be part of the solution. Perhaps you’re reducing your home energy use, have limited your air travel or increased your use of public transport. Perhaps you’ve switched energy provider to one that relies more on renewables. Perhaps you’re considering taking your commitment to a carbon-free, greener future one step further by installing solar PV in your home or small business.
Solar panels are the most common technology used by prosumers in Europe. A prosumer can be one household, a group of tenants in an apartment building, or group of homeowners who’ve come together in a cooperative. By installing rooftop solar PV on their homes, each produces renewable electricity for their own use, and can feed any excess into the grid for use by others.
The Irish government has recently taken steps to incentivise the transition to solar through its Clean Export Guarantee – a program under which “prosumers” are guaranteed payment for any surplus electricity they supply to the Grid.
Depending on the size of the installation and the homeowner’s own usage, most solar installations will export between 10% and 40% of the power they generate back to the grid. Homeowners can – and should – shop around to find the electricity provider giving the best deal both for when you are buying and for when you are selling!
As of 2015 (the last date for which EU-wide data is available), Germany had the highest amount of installed energy capacity linked to prosumers, followed by Italy, Spain, France, Belgium and Denmark.
Ireland was way down the list – in sixteenth place out of the total 27 member-states.
The future, experts suggest, can be much different. By taking full advantage of solar and wind, prosumers in EU member states could be providing between 30-70% of total electricity by 2050. With Ireland’s own “prosumption” capacity moving it up to a respectable seventh place in the EU.
Prosumption benefits not just the participating homeowners, but society as a whole by speeding up the energy transition, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and contributing to a sustainable future.
Investing in solar PV systems can bring many benefits, including reduced energy bills, increased energy independence, and a reduced carbon footprint. If you are interested in installing a solar PV system, it is worth exploring the different grant options available and seeking professional advice from one of our solar energy advisors.
Feel free to contact us for more information, we’re here to help.