Digitization and Energy Communities: new emerging consumer protection profiles

The paper “Digitalizaion and Energy Communities: new emerging consumer protection profiles” will be presented at the FSR Sustainability Conference on “Greening Infrastructures” (22 June 2022).

Abstract

This paper focuses on the close connection between energy communities or more generally the renewable energy sources sector and digitalization, which are two factors necessary to favor the energy transition process, towards the much desired sustainable development.

Energy communities, as new legal entities coined by the European legislator to promote the maximum diffusion of the use of renewable energy sources, have a decisive role in determining a profound change in the behavior and participation of citizens in urban regeneration and local development of every territorial context in which they come to operate. In fact, they are configured as a tool for citizens’ active participation in the energy market. However, as is emerging in contemporary reality, the necessary promotion of energy communities requires the use of digital infrastructures and platforms that allow those who have already joined or would like to join them, to reap the real benefits. It is in fact known that for the creation of a more sustainable and reliable energy supply system, smart grids play a key role, as they favor decentralized electricity production as well as production by prosumers.

The application of digital technologies to smart grids can support and facilitate this process by coordinating the production of distributed energy and promoting peer-to-peer transactions through smart contracts, without the intervention of any intermediary, making a radical review of the organization of the energy market. The close connection between smart grids and blockchain registers rebalances the relationships in energy supply systems, thus favoring the creation of a decentralized energy sharing network in the form of an energy community.

However, having grasped the positive aspects, one cannot ignore the legal criticalities that emerge and that are intertwined with more purely technological issues. In particular, this research activity intends to focus on the issue of the allocation of responsibilities in a complex energy system, which combines the traditional energy infrastructure with an automated digital network based on blockchain technology.

In fact, in the light of the analysis of the risks and potentials deriving from the diffusion of blockchain technology in the energy transition, taking into account the functioning of smart grids and their role in the management of decentralized energy production systems, it will be necessary and A legal investigation of the responsibility profile of the various actors involved is useful, without neglecting the consumer protection profiles, given that this evolutionary process could be the cause of a strong disintermediation of relationships. The identification and definition of responsibilities in the context of digital energy transactions will be implemented in the same way as the risks presented by the various systems of distributed ledgers, as well as the already existing system of responsibility for the traditional energy supply system.

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