Putting Citizens at the Centre of the Energy Transition

Spotlight on Marine Cornelis, Executive Director of Next Energy Consumer

FSR Energy&Climate
Oct 15, 2019 · 6 min read
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The driving force

I am driven by curiosity and a hunger for knowledge.

Brussels Bubble

In Brussels, I was fortunate to lead quite a small but proactive lobby called NEON — the network of energy ombudsmen and dispute resolution providers, from 2012 to 2018. It was an incredibly fulfilling experience. I shaped NEON in its infancy, shaping everything for the network — from inventing working methods, procedures, to leading both the public relations and policy work. I was also a member of the Vulnerable Consumers working group led by DG Energy, and I have since been a devoted participant of the Citizens’ Energy Forum (then in London, now in Dublin).

Consumers are expected to behave like a single entity.

But we are not energy “consumers”; we make use of energy: we cook, heat, cool, charge our phones, turn the lights on, some of us also need connected medical devices to stay alive. In Europe, most of us live without thinking about power supply, but in the rest of the world, about a billion people live without regular access to electricity.

From a consumer to citizen perspective

The European Commission perspective on the future of energy is highly techno-centred. It seems paradoxical compared to the approach suggesting that consumers should occupy a prominent place in the new, smart network. Consumers are encouraged to participate actively in the smart grid (demand-response system, demand aggregation, participation in energy communities, etc.), but not everyone has the willingness or the financial means to buy connected appliances. Essential human needs (such as feeling safe and warm at home) are seldom mentioned in EU strategies. For the time being, energy in households is still quite a dull topic — except when a high bill arrives. In this case, it can become a source of anxiety. We need to create an integrated dialogue with all stakeholders; we need to overcome prejudice and build an inclusive energy sector which takes into account the needs, as well as the different development potential and limitations of the people.

Few people, organisations and projects are actively trying to move the lines and recognise that consumers are citizens with rights.

Building Bridges

When I moved to Italy, I suddenly realised how mysterious the Energy Union ambitions were outside the EU-bubble. Many regions and countries look at the transforming world with blinders on. A lot of stakeholders (public, private, foundations, NGOs, universities) want to know more, understand more, network more, and achieve more, but they do not know where to start. I have the chance to be fluent in several languages, so I am happy to be able to disseminate and share information in the language of the country, and build bridges between entities.

Working as a policy-shaker

I always try to think out of the box to provide a groundbreaking analysis and solutions, and I like bringing new perspectives. I am proud when my clients tell me that they have never seen things that way before. I am open to working on many different but complementary projects, allowing me to build unique expertise on the humane perspective on the energy transition. For instance, since 2018 I have been a policy advisor for a research project on access to justice and fuel poverty, ESRC Just Energy, working with key players in the fight against energy poverty in Italy, France, Catalonia, United Kingdom and Bulgaria. I am also starting a series of interviews of people affected by different forms of energy poverty, and the solutions they implement to cope with it.

Looking towards the future

I have a lot of ideas for the future of Next Energy Consumer. I would be thrilled to build a team accompanying the development of long-lasting projects combining social impact and energy and climate resilience. I want Next Energy Consumer to becoming a multilingual platform popularising consumer empowerment initiatives and research, to build a just transition for everyone. My purpose is engaging, sharing my findings and proposing my services to very varied audiences, not only the business but also “normal” consumers. There is so much to learn out of our silos!

Resources:

- Mothers of Invention, a brilliant podcast by former Irish President Mary Robinson and comedian Maeve Higgins on women leading the fight against climate change — https://www.mothersofinvention.online

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FSR Energy&Climate

Written by

The Florence School of Regulation shares high-quality & relevant academic thinking on EU Energy policy & regulation. Sign up for updates: http://bit.ly/1ARx7vp

Lights on Women

The FSR "Lights on Women" initiative is a platform used to shine a light on women's expertise, publications, projects, and professional achievements, making their contributions visible to the energy community.

FSR Energy&Climate

Written by

The Florence School of Regulation shares high-quality & relevant academic thinking on EU Energy policy & regulation. Sign up for updates: http://bit.ly/1ARx7vp

Lights on Women

The FSR "Lights on Women" initiative is a platform used to shine a light on women's expertise, publications, projects, and professional achievements, making their contributions visible to the energy community.

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