More than 50 million Europeans live today in energy poverty and are not able to properly heat their homes in winter nor to afford air-conditioning in the summer. While electricity prices continue to increase in most European countries, the climate crisis is further affecting peopleʼs lives, especially as low incomes and badly insulated, damp and unhealthy homes are causing higher energy bills. Furthermore, energy poverty is associated with a range of adverse consequences for people’s health and wellbeing: respiratory and cardiac illnesses as well as mental health are worsened by high temperatures; high levels of stress and educational under-achievements because of unaffordable energy bills. Women are most severely affected by this because of their lower income, the higher burden of their domestic and family tasks and because they represent the majority of single parents and elderly people living alone.
The right to clean and affordable energy, which is also part of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, should thus be guaranteed to every European citizen.
Progressive cities and regions are directly involved in addressing this phenomenon at local level and the PES Group is asking the EU institutions to propose specific objectives in order to eradicate energy poverty by 2050. These objectives should involve all levels of governance in order to have a holistic and crosscutting approach that takes into account the indissoluble link between social and environmental challenges.
“Today, over 50 million Europeans are forced to choose between heating and eating and thus live their lives in energy poverty. This has a serious effect on the health and wellbeing of people and we know that women are the most severely affected by it. A just energy and climate transition that does not leave anyone behind starts by eradicating energy poverty,” says Kata Tüttő, Representative of the Local Government of District 12 of Budapest (Hungary), member of the PES Group and rapporteur of the European Committee of the Regions on energy poverty.
The main proposals, adopted by unanimity by the European Committee of the Regions, are to:
- ensure that the right to affordable energy is guaranteed by foreseeing a moratorium on the suspension of energy services due to a failure to pay, so that no household is left without basic heating or cooling and electricity;
- create a legal framework to limit excessive energy costs as it cannot be left to the sole discretion of the market and should include the dimension of renovations as they are necessary to meet the EUʼs climate goals;
- launch a joint and coordinated approach in which the work of local and regional authorities is recognised because they are the closest to citizens and the best-placed to implement measures to combat energy poverty;
- improve the energy efficiency of the housing stock, with an obligation to renovate annually 3% of the buildings belonging to Member Statesʼ central governments;
- allocate the largest possible share of EU funds to an overall renovation of the stock of buildings that are part of the energy poverty problem.
Kata Tüttő concludes: “The European Union has an unbeatable opportunity to regain its citizens' trust by deploying all necessary measures to eradicate energy poverty in our communities. By leveraging investments in energy efficiency to renovate Europeʼs 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 create direct benefits and show its added value to citizens. It is also one of the three pillars of the European Covenant of Mayors, which is a great example of bottom-up action to address the climate challenge”.