The new energy consumer insists on transparency, reasonable prices and sustainable use

  • Experts from various sectors analyse the profile of the new energy consumer at “Els Juliols”, a summer course organised by the Naturgy Foundation with the University of Barcelona.
  • During the course of a week more than a dozen experts tackled issues such as energy poverty, the new energy consumer, the importance of digitalisation and connectivity for the new energy consumer, and the system’s impact on the environment and human health.

This week, in Barcelona, the Naturgy Foundation organised the 13th edition of “Els Juliols”, a summer course held in collaboration with the University of Barcelona (UB) where the theme this year was ‘The new energy consumer’. Over the course of five days, 12 experts from various fields linked to technology, economics, society, science and communication analysed the profile of the new energy consumer and their concerns and interests in the current energy model.

The General Manager of the Naturgy Foundation, Martí Solà, opened the course on Monday with the Rector of the University of Barcelona, Joan Elías García and the UB’s Professor of Energy Resources, Mariano Marzo, who also played the role of seminar facilitator.

The session began with a talk entitled ‘The era of energy diversification: towards the most diverse mix in history’ by the expert Mariano Marzo, who briefly reviewed the main factors that are behind the change in the energy scenario. He noted that “We are moving towards the era of energy diversification, which means we are reaching a consumption proportion of non-fossil and fossil fuels of 40, 50 and 60%.

The expert and Global Manager Utility Sector at The Boston Consulting Group, Javier Argüeso, was given the task of starting the second block of the day with ‘Where is the energy consumer going today? A vision from the company point of view’. He stressed how the consumer profile is changing. “We are looking for convenience, a unique experience and, at the same time, a technological change is taking place that enables companies to change the way they relate to their customers: we are in the data era”. In this setting “energy companies have an opportunity to offer new services”, he said.

The Tuesday session tackled two key issues in the sector, namely, information and transparency. The day kicked off with a practical example on the communication strategy of energy companies from Sonia Domènech, director of the communication agency Román y Asociados, who went through the various stakeholders that need to be taken into account and the importance of providing “well-planned and transparent communications for which we have trained spokespersons”.

La Vanguardia’s Environment and Science specialist, the journalist Joaquim Elcacho , brought Tuesday to a close with an appeal for responsibility in the way the media treats information on energy, explaining how the appearance of new digital specialist media is a positive factor in restoring responsibility.

From energy poverty to business competitiveness

Wednesday was dedicated to the prices and costs of energy and various ways of deal with bills when faced with economic problems. María González de Perosanz, Technical Adviser on the Ecological Transition at the Ministry of Industry’s Sub-directorate General for Electrical Energy, explained how the “social bond” works in Spain. She stressed it “is the main protective mechanism for the so-called vulnerable consumer of electricity, one of a series of lines of action designed to increase consumer protection in the electricity sector” and put the number of Spanish households that could benefit from this bond at two million.

The head of Social Projects at the Naturgy Foundation, Ester Sevilla, then explained the different causes and degrees of energy vulnerability, which are classified on six levels, depending on the type and situation of the affected families. “The causes of energy vulnerability are a lack of family income, badly constructed housing and the high cost of energy, and now there is a forth”, she added, “the lack of consumer training”. In that regard, she highlighted one of the Naturgy Foundation’s initiatives, the Energy School, a project that has trained over 6,000 people in the last 18 months – mainly Third Sector social workers, public authority technical staff and members of vulnerable families – to improve efficiency and reduce energy consumption. “It is essential we know our consumption habits so we know how we can adapt our energy bill to our needs and be more sustainable”, she said.

Permanent connectivity with the new energy consumer

The Thursday sessions were opened by ZIV’s Metering Business Development Manager, Txetxu Arzuaga, with his talk on connectivity and customer-tailored services in the energy sector. Using a practical example, he went through how we consume all kinds of services on the internet, and how connectivity is gaining ground in every sphere, playing an increasing role in managing household consumption. In that regard, he highlighted how the new energy consumer will be able to control the energy they are using by means of an app on their mobile, and how they will receive alerts on the tariffs and time bands when they are consuming. “With this system, energy companies can offer more suitable services by taking consumption into account, and reduce their operating costs”, he noted.

The task of concluding the penultimate day of “Els Juliols” fell to Arthur Jouannic, Principal Analyst at Delta-Ee, who also used a practical example to explain the new products and services based on connection with consumers.

The perspective of health and the environment put the finishing touch to the course.

The first speaker on the final day was Elena Boldo, senior scientist at the National Centre of Epidemiology, Institute of Health Carlos lll, with a talk on the ‘Impact of energy emissions on human health: recent evidence’. In the course of her intervention, she outlined how climate change and deteriorating air quality are linked to high morbility and mortality: seven million premature deaths a year around the world, according to the WHO. She also stressed the “transition to renewable energies, energy efficiency and lower consumption are now essential for the sake of the climate, air quality and public health”.

Jorge Miguel Unsión, an energy regulation technician at the National Commission on Markets and Competition (CNMC) Energy Division, then gave some guidelines for ensuring the energy system has as little impact on the environment as possible. “For years, both in Spain and the rest of Europe, the increase in the number of companies that attribute the qualities of “green” or “renewable” to themselves or the products and services they offer has been viewed with concern. In the case of electricity, a transparent and objective mechanism has been created to provide an accurate support that justifies these claims by electricity marketing companies”.

The Naturgy Foundation

The Naturgy Foundation, set up by the power company in 1992, seeks to educate, train, inform and raise awareness throughout society on energy and environmental issues. It also develops Social Action programmes both nationally and internationally, by influencing particular initiatives aimed at alleviating energy vulnerability. It promotes initiatives in the cultural sphere, geared both at preserving and disseminating the historical heritage of the gas and electricity sector.