Jean-Bernard Audureau from the General Association of Consumers (ASGECO) in Spain wrote an opinion piece in which he proposes an eminently holistic approach to combat energy poverty. In his piece (in Spanish) he explains what the European Coalition for the Right to Energy (of which COFACE is member) is and breaks down the measures it proposes to alleviate energy poverty.
Nowadays in Europe, 50 million people cannot afford to heat their house properly, 120 million cannot keep their house cool in the summer, 50 million are late paying their bills and 7 million have had their supply suspended at least once.
This phenomenon has been aggravated by the fact that incomes are rising more slowly than energy prices and also by the financial crisis. There has been an average 70% increase in energy prices in Europe since 2004, and arrears on energy bills have increased dramatically in many European countries between 2008 and 2016.
Energy costs represent an increasingly heavy burden on European households, especially when combined with energy waste due to energy inefficient housing. The vast majority of households in Europe waste energy, inflate bills and contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. This leads vulnerable households to give up heating, or to consume large amounts of energy to keep warm or cool. Energy poverty also affects the most vulnerable populations first: older people, children, persons who are chronically ill and single-parent households (80% of which are headed by women).
In order to overcome this pressing social issue, Audureau calls for a holistic political approach, linking social and environmental policy. Also, the principles 19 and 20 of the European Pillar of Social Rights identify good quality housing and affordable energy services as basic human rights, and number 7 of the UN’s Goals for Sustainable Development aims to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.
The Right to Energy Coalition was formed in 2017 by European civil society organisations, including COFACE Families Europe, with the aim of collaborating on the issue of energy poverty. It proposes measures to alleviate it in the EU 2030 energy package, including the Electricity Market Directive, which is currently in the final stages of its political negotiations. The Coalition asks for:
- A definition of energy poverty.
- Definition of criteria for measuring energy poverty.
- National action plans on energy poverty
- Support local energy communities
- Ban supply suspensions to protect the right to energy for all.
The agreement reached by the new Electricity Directive includes some positive elements such as the definition of energy poverty and the development of ‘citizens energy communities’ that could facilitate the transition to a more varied, decentralised and democratic renewable energy system. Nevertheless, the new directive does not include the national action plans on energy poverty and the bans to supply suspensions. The coalition will continue to stay active in order to ensure that a socially fair energy transition is a political priority for the new European agenda.
See more on the new Electricity Market Directive agreement by reading our article The new Electricity Directive defines energy poverty but does not tackle it.