What is CUBE ?
Energy issues have been given an increasing importance in the political debates over the last years. In this context, it appears now necessary to evaluate the way decisions relative to these questions are taken at the local but also national and global scales.
In the traditional scheme currently prevailing on the international scene, decisions are taken by the energy producers without regard to the opinion of citizens. End-users have therefore no opportunity for changing the policies and measures adopted in their region and applied to them. However, this unilateralism has revealed in the past its incapacity to provide solutions for the most serious environmental issues and couldn’t avoid the aggravation of pollution and the following climatic disasters we experience today at the local and global scales.
The impacts of energy-related decisions on the civil society and its environment are today far too important to be taken without concertation with the actual consumers of the energy utilities. These decisions should follow a public debate in which all parties can express their opinion and discuss about the costs and benefits of the different options available in the whole energy chain.
Additionally, the recent evolutions and liberalisations in the energy sector have triggered the need for the consumers to be able to consult an independent and objective source of information which could address topics such as, e.g., energy efficiency measures, prices or externalities. This would help the end-users to make the choices which are really the most adapted to their needs and their financial situation.
Such initiatives already exist and have been successfully implemented in several regions of the world: they are called Energywatch and Energy Trust in the UK, Citizens Utility Boards (CUBs) in the USA and councils of consumers in Denmark. Even if their form vary, they all share the common goals of displaying precise information about the energy solutions available to the consumers in their region and which are the most prone to foster ecodevelopment at the local scale.
The CUBE Project initiated by HELIO International aims at supporting the creation and development of such independent groups of energy users sharing the will to act concretely in the executive decision-making process in force in their area and to have a real influence on the policies and measures eventually adopted.
What is a CUBE ?
The role of a CUBE (Citizens Utility Board for Energy) is first to provide information to the energy consumers in an independent and objective manner. But the primary goal of the members of a CUBE is to become active participants in the decision-making process for policies and measures adopted by the local executives and applied to the population.
How to create a CUBE ?
First, a new law or an amendment to the existing legislation should define the legal frame of the CUBE and its place in the local political system. It is namely a duty of the local politicians to allow the CUBE to become an integral part of the executive system and to inform the population
of its existence. An efficient strategy to reach this goal is for instance to add information about the CUBE in the bills periodically sent by the energy suppliers to their consumers.
It is however of a crucial importance for the CUBE to remain independent from the local executive system. A minimal financial contribution is therefore asked to the new members for their registration in the CUBE. Of course, a lot of other actions are possible in order to ensure that the CUBE can operate without relying on public fundings from the local policy-holders.
Contribution of a CUBE to the regional ecodevelopment
1. Contribution to a sustainable economy
- Identification and integration of the externalities
- Reorientation of the public fundings to measures for energy efficiency and to the development of renewable energies
2. Contribution to the environment
- Stabilisation of the climate
- Elimination of the pollution generated by the energy production, transport, use and by the wastes
3. Contribution to social welfare
- Prices transparency
- Collective decision-making
4. Contribution to the diversity of technologies
- Security of the energy mix
- Monitored progress