On 20 April 2021, the European Economic and Social Committee organised a conference on Energy Poverty in the context of the European Pillar of Social Rights and the Green Deal. STEP was invited to take the floor and present its latest findings.
Monique Goyens, Director General of BEUC, which coordinates the STEP project, spoke during the first panel on how tackling energy poverty can contribute to achieving Europe’s climate objectives. Her points focused on the high momentum to tackle energy poverty in the upcoming revisions of legislation and the advocacy on-going for the Fit for 55 Package as well as the need for private funding in reaching such ambitious goals.
The climate crisis and the question of social justice are completely intertwined. This is also one of the main merits of the European Green Deal, which connects the dots between the two dimensions and includes climate/environmental policy across all policy fields.
Through the Horizon 2020 STEP project, BEUC has a rather clear picture of the extent of the problem. BEUC’s members at national level have developed programmes, in partnership with frontline organisations such as buildings managers/charities etc., to reach out to energy-poor consumers and provide them advice as to how to make savings on their energy consumption by undertaking low-cost energy saving measures, behaviour change and access energy efficiency grants.
However, there is only so much that you can achieve with these low-cost measures.
This is why we need a clear definition of energy poverty to better inform policy, tackle the multi-dimensional aspect of the problem (consumers’ share of income spent on energy or the quality of their home). The revision of the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) in June would be an opportunity to introduce such a definition.
The revision of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive is also an opportunity to make sure that all future new buildings, but also those undergoing major renovation works, comply with minimum energy performance criteria. This is of most relevance for consumers in energy poverty, for whom energy costs have a great impact and who deserve quality dwellings.
Another concrete way to mobilise money to tackle energy poverty could be to include banks as part of “obligated parties” under the EED. This would mean, as is currently the case for energy suppliers, banks would also have to deliver energy saving obligations to consumers. This could take the form of new financial instruments, such as on-bill schemes, to help households finance their renovation works or the purchase of energy efficient appliances, for instance. This would maximise the mobilisation of the financial sector which is crucial to tackle this issue.