New analysis of national plans, policies and measures in six Central and Eastern European countries, reveals inadequate action to tackle energy poverty. The report, prepared by NGOs and researchers across Europe, finds that Croatia, Czechia, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia have failed to provide a clear definition of energy poverty in their national plans, a bare minimum required by the EU.
Member States are required by EU law to use their National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs) and Long-Term Renovation Strategies (LTRS) to set out definitions and indicators, timeframes and policies to reduce energy poverty . More recently, the European Commission has identified citizens affected by energy poverty as one of the three key priorities of the Renovation Wave and published its Guidelines on Energy Poverty to spur member states into action.
This report shows that tools, policies and measures in all of the analysed National Energy and Climate Plans fall short on addressing the root causes of Europe’s energy poverty. In addition, none of the countries covered in the report, except Czechia, have submitted their final Long Term Renovation Strategies (LTRS). Czech’s LTRS also doesn’t include an overview of measures to tackle energy poverty which severely affects the Ústecký and Moravskoslezský coal regions in the country.
Energy poverty is an ever pressing problem for all six countries. In Slovenia, for example, 22.7% of the population live in apartments with a leaking roof, damp walls, damp floors, or rotten window frames. In 2017, in Croatia, 17.5% of the population are unable to pay their utility bills on time due to financial difficulties, while the EU average is 6.6%. Slovakia also has one of the highest levels of expenditure on energy bills when compared to the overall household budget spent (23.4%) in the EU.
The report calls on Member States to immediately start addressing energy poverty and improving people’s quality of life, as the ongoing pandemic forces millions to live in energy poor homes. It also offers solutions and urges the European Commission to ensure ambitious ring-fenced funding for housing renovation and to propose measures to at least triple the current rate of renovations, while adjusting all necessary legislation to ensure households affected by energy poverty are reached.
Director of CAN Europe, Wendel Trio said: “It is clear that the Central Eastern European leaders must immediately start developing national policies and measures to protect the most vulnerable households and connect these policies with measures around energy efficiency, renewable energy, buildings renovation and protection of vulnerable consumers.
Unlocking the EU budget and increasing the EU’s 2030 climate target in the December European Council will not only support the development and implementation of these measures but also help the EU become a step closer to achieving the Paris Agreement objectives.”
Martha Myers-Lowe, energy poverty campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe, said: “As Covid-19 crisis pushes millions of European households to the brink this winter, Europe’s energy poor are being let down by serial inaction. This analysis shows that every country we analysed is failing to tackle widespread energy poverty – they’re not even close to doing the bare EU minimum. We call on Member States to reassess their plans in light of the EU’s Renovation Wave, for a green bailout prioritising the energy poor, and for member states to put in place solutions so no-one is left in the dark and cold.”
Wojciech Szymalski, ISD Foundation, Poland: “Energy poverty is a big problem in Poland and has a strong correlation with a level of air pollution. Most air pollution in Poland comes from small coal stoves used in private housing. The stoves need to be changed, but many people can’t afford it. Here the energy poverty lies deeper than just in a level of energy bills. In spite of the fact that national authorities started to address the problem through the “Clean Air” program, there still needs much more to be studied and done. Local authorities and social organizations could be more active in providing support, but they seem to be blocked by the national law. This local potential needs to be unlocked.”
Miljenka Kuhar, DOOR, Croatia: “Energy poverty is not only a pressing issue for millions of European citizens but also an issue which asks for a multisectoral approach. Its causes are deeply rooted in personal socioeconomic status, but its consequences overpass the financial aspects of a person’s life and they cause significant emotional burden as well as impact on physical and mental health. Areas such as health, gender aspect or wellbeing in general are often disregarded when talking about energy poverty. But for citizens living in energy poor households, these are pressing issues. And this is only one of the reasons for breaking a silo between sectors when talking about energy poverty and starting an open and inclusive discussion not only on energy aspects of energy poverty, but on financial, ethical, gender and health aspects as well.”
Tomislav Tkalec, FOCUS Association for Sustainable Development / Friends of the Earth Slovenia: “Slovenian NECP does not include a clear definition of energy poverty, nor any quantified targets or goals, hence the progress and effectiveness of the measures can not be monitored. Although the NECP states that the definition of energy poverty with indicators and targets will be adopted by 2021, the government should speed up the process. Within its H2020 project EmpowerMed, FOCUS will continue to push for better policy solutions, as well as provide practical measures against energy poverty. Fortunately, there are also ongoing governmental programs for tackling energy poverty, such as support for investments in energy efficiency and energy advising in households, run by the Eco Fund.”
Dušana Dokupilová, Institute for Forecasting, Slovak Academy of Sciences, Slovakia: “Energy poverty is the problem that seems to be very dreaded. State institutions are afraid of participating in its solutions. This can be caused by very low understanding of the issue of energy poverty due to missing of the deep national analysis. Against this backdrop, the Slovak NECP, shows very little interest in solving the problem of energy poverty. Slovak Academy of Sciences is one of the first institutions in Slovakia that started to take action to bring the light into this complex problem.”
Anna Zsofia Bajomi, from the ENGAGER Cost Action Network, said: “The current energy transition could bring substantial benefits for households that struggle to heat their homes. To ease heat-related difficulties is essential to set clear energy poverty reduction targets and well-defined outline policies. For example, targeted energy-efficient retrofits of low-performing homes are crucial. Also, providing clean and affordable heating solutions for households that rely on solid fuels and inefficient, outdated heating devices should be a key priority, that would bring broader benefits such as cleaner air.”
‘Tackling energy poverty through National Energy and Climate Plans: Priority or empty promise?’ report will be presented in the Right to Energy Forum on 03 December at 10 am. Representatives from the European Commission, researchers and NGO representatives who contributed to the report will debate the necessary next steps to accelerate policies and measures to protect Europeans affected by energy poverty.
Goksen Sahin, Project Manager, Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe