Time to eradicate energy poverty in Europe  

​Local governments call on the European Commission to propose specific objectives for reducing energy poverty by 2030 and eradicating it by 2050

Energy poverty is a major societal challenge with direct impact on health that affects around 54 million Europeans (EC). High-energy prices, low incomes and badly insulated, damp and unhealthy homes are leading to higher energy poverty rates. Electricity prices have gone up significantly in most countries in the past decade, which combined with the recent economic and financial crisis and the poor energy performance of Europe's building stock, has led to increased concerns over energy poverty in Europe. 

Around 11% of the EU population - 54 million Europeans, is affected by energy poverty. Yet, most EU countries still do not identify or quantify vulnerable energy consumers, and do not adequately target energy poverty measures.

Highly concerned by energy poverty, the European Committee of the Regions has unanimously adopted the opinion 'Multilevel governance and cross-sectoral cooperation to fight energy poverty'. It includes a series of proposals amongst which to develop further the European definition of energy poverty, targeted investments in energy efficiency, a revision of the single market that delivers low energy prices for households and time framed targets to end energy poverty.

Rapporteur Kata Tüttő (HU/PES), Representative of Local Government of District 12 of Budapest, said: "Today over 50 million Europeans are forced to choose between heating and eating, living their lives in energy poverty. This has serious effects on the health and wellbeing of people and we know that women are more severely affected by it. The right to clean and affordable energy, which is also part of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, should be guaranteed to every European citizen. By leveraging investments in energy efficiency to renovate Europe's building stock and by setting up specific social protection schemes and a properly functioning and competitive single market that delivers low energy prices for consumers, the EU will bring direct benefits and show its added value to citizens. A just energy and climate transition that does not leave anyone behind must start by eradicating energy poverty."

Basic energy prices for household consumers cannot be left to market self-regulation, Members agree. In order to limit excessive energy costs, cities and regions urge the EU to put into place legal frameworks providing Member States and local and regional authorities with the right tools to ensure affordable energy for all. In this sense, the CoR also echoes a call from the European Parliament on the European Commission to provide further guidance on when Member States are allowed to intervene in the market to avoid a 'significant number of households' being affected by energy poverty.

​Local leaders propose a moratorium on the termination or suspension of basic energy services for those citizens' failing to pay.

Cities and regions urge Member States to transpose into national laws the updated Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) by March 2020 at the latest. The new EPBD entered into force on 9 July 2018. It includes measures that will accelerate the rate of building renovation towards more energy efficient systems and strengthen the energy performance of new buildings.

Yet, members recall that the renewed EPBD should be complemented with additional targets and investments to renovate Europe's building stock without which efforts to eradicate energy poverty will be insufficient.

Adequate warmth, cooling, lighting and the energy to power appliances are essential services needed to guarantee a decent standard of living and citizens' health. Energy poverty occurs when a household suffers from a lack of adequate energy services in the home (EC).

Local leaders want to see the Energy Poverty Observatory lifespan extended so to continue collecting and evaluating data as a key input for improving policies to eradicate energy poverty. Two thirds of Member States are not yet monitoring the development of energy poverty using quantitative metrics, members recall.

​Note to editors:

Energy poverty is defined as a "situation where a household or an individual is unable to afford basic energy services (heating, cooling, lighting, mobility and power) to guarantee a decent standard of living due to a combination of low income, high energy expenditure and low energy efficiency of their homes" (Definition by the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy). The Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy has established energy poverty as its third pillar, playing a leading role in keeping this issue on the agenda towards 2030.

Energy poverty may affect nearly 11% of the EU population. Read the complete study here.

For country-based information, please read here the report 'Energy Poverty in the European Union' by the European Energy Network (2019).

Energy poverty is a distinct form of poverty associated with a range of adverse consequences for people's health and wellbeing – with respiratory and cardiac illnesses, and mental health, exacerbated due to low temperatures and stress associated with unaffordable energy bills, as well as educational under-achievement for children affected by it. In fact, energy poverty has an indirect effect on many policy areas - including health, environment and productivity. Addressing energy poverty has the potential to bring multiple benefits, including less money spent by governments on health, reduced air pollution and CO2 emissions,, better comfort and wellbeing, improved household budgets, and increased economic activity (EC).

With the Clean Energy for All Europeans package, the European Commission has proposed a range of measures to address energy poverty through energy efficiency, safeguards against disconnection and a better definition and monitoring of the issue at Member State (MS) level through the integrated National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs). Consequently, the EU legislative context for energy poverty is undergoing several changes. Energy poverty is mentioned in the new Energy Efficiency Directive (2018/2002), the new Energy Performance in Buildings Directive (2018/844) and the Governance Regulation (2018/1999). Also, the Electricity Directive (2009/72) refers to energy poverty, and its revised version was the product of political agreement in December2018. (Read more here).

According to the EU Energy Poverty Observatory, the main indicators to identify energy poverty are 'Low absolute energy expenditure', 'Arrears on utility bills', 'High share of energy expenditure in income and 'Inability to keep home adequately warm'.

Electricity prices for household consumers have been on a constant rise for the last twelve years. The EU28 average cost of a Kilowatt-hour has gone from 0.18€ in the first semester of 2007 to 0.21€ the second semester of 2018 (Eurostat), but with very significant differences between Member States.

Denmark (0.31€), Germany (0.30€), Belgium (0.29€), Ireland (0.25€) and Spain (0.24) are the top five countries where the Kilowatt-hour is most expensive all taxes and levies included. On the opposite end, the Member States where the Kilowatt-hour is the cheapest are Bulgaria (0.10€), Lithuania (0.10€), Hungary (€0.11), Romania (0.13€), Malta (0.13€) and Poland (0.13€) (Eurostat)

One of the primary indicators for energy poverty are 'arrears on utility bills' which show the share of households that have been unable to pay utility bills on time (heating, electricity, gas, water, etc.) due to financial difficulties. In the EU28, the average for such situations has decreased from 9 to 7% from 2010 to 2017, but extremely diverse situations persist. In 2017, as many as 38% of Greeks, 30% of Bulgarians and 21% of Croatians declared to have played their energy bills with delay due to financial constraints. The following countries are all  above the EU 7% average: 16% in Romania, 14.3% in Slovenia, 13.9% in Hungary, 13.7% in Cyprus, 11.9% Latvia, 8.5% in Poland and 7.4% in Spain. (Eurostat).

EPBD (Energy Performance of Buildings Directive) 2018/844 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 May 2018 amending Directive 2010/31/EU on the energy performance of buildings and Directive 2012/27/EU on energy efficiency.

 

Contact: David Crous | Tel. +32 (0) 470 88 10 37 | david.crous@cor.europa.eu