On 17 March 2022; the Policy Learning Platform organised the fourth day of its Policy learning week. The focus was on Low-carbon economy and throughout the day we organised different standalone sessions.
Ask an Expert
During the session, our experts Katharina Krell and Simon Hunkin answered some of the questions sent by the community members on topics that are high on the political agenda of policymakers: EU Taxonomy, sustainable modes of transport…they mentioned several good practices from Interreg Europe projects and other Policy Learning Platform resources that can be of inspiration for many organisations across Europe daily involved in delivering policies in those fields. All the sources of information are available in a hand-out.
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Workshop: Regional and local approaches to fight energy poverty
The workshop focused on how regions can support their inhabitants in energy poverty, beyond the use of energy bill subsidies, by instead supporting the sustainable use of energy. The workshop involved keynote presentations from the POWERTY project and the European Commission, with presentations of three Interreg Europe pilot actions, and three Good Practices identified in projects.
Energy Poverty is rocketing up the political agenda. Europe now faces a significant rise in energy prices as a result of the twin shock of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine and resulting efforts to cut out Russian energy supplies. Energy efficiency and renewable energy will play a key role in countering these changes in the energy market and helping Europe to become energy self-sufficient, but these measures will take time to implement. In this transition, the initial price shock will have the highest impact on those in energy poverty, defined by the European Commission as to when energy bills represent a high percentage of consumers income, affecting their capacity to cover other expenses, or when consumers are forced to reduce their energy consumption, with an impact on their physical or mental well-being. It is estimated that some 34 million people in the EU fit within this definition.
Low-income households are most at risk of energy poverty. This is affected by the energy efficiency of the residence, and the performance of appliances, such as heating and hot water, cooling, and lighting, amongst others. Issues can be particularly exacerbated if buildings are very old, and varied ownership models (if residents are rented) can impede action. As well as providing relief for energy-poor households, support also needs to aid the transition from fossil fuel to sustainable energy.
Numerous measures are possible for tackling energy poverty. In the short term, subsidies are most likely to be used to assist those at risk, but in the long run, subsidies for fossil fuels will not be compatible with our decarbonisation goals. The POWERTY project identified a typology for energy poverty interventions:
- Technology Practices focused on demonstrating and installing new technologies, or adapting technologies to vulnerable users;
- Financial Practices for unlocking funds for implementing renewable energy and energy efficiency projects;
- Normative and Regulatory Practices placing requirements onto housing owners to improve conditions, or reducing the regulatory burden to making interventions;
- Citizen Empowerment Practices to engage those at risk of energy poverty in taking action themselves, via behaviour change, educational or community initiatives.
There are specific challenges in improving energy performance for vulnerable groups. They are often unaware of renewable energy and energy efficiency interventions, energy consumption is often already low so it is challenging to make quick gains through efficiency improvements, vulnerable groups are heterogeneous and difficult to access, and there remains a lack of tools for identifying energy poverty.
There is no quick fix. Although there are many interventions possible, many are mid-to-long-term interventions. However, given the need for the energy transition, now is the time to make interventions and not rely only on subsidies. Decentralised and community renewable energy have particularly high potential, and financial resources are available via the European Structural and Investment Funds for investing in capacity.
Policy frameworks are evolving to enable greater participation of citizens in the energy market. European policy states that all citizens and actors must be involved in the energy transition, and policy frameworks are developing to enable greater citizen involvement, including for vulnerable users (See the Renewable Energy Directive and the Internal Energy Market Directive).
Support is available. The European Commission is directly providing inspiration and support via its Energy Poverty Advisory Hub, a collaborative network of stakeholders aiming to provide energy poverty expertise. The EPAH provides reports and guidance on local actions, online courses and events, with a focus on the local level, as well as the EPAH Atlas of case studies. Advice is also available via the Interreg Europe Policy Learning Platform which provides on-demand services via matchmaking sessions and peer reviews which can provide regions with experiences and in-depth knowledge from other regions that have successfully found solutions for similar challenges. Visit the expert support page to find out more and to contact us.
Interreg Europe Pilot Actions enable project partners to test a good practice or approach, building upon experience and practices identified during project exchange. This workshop presented three pilots from the POWERTY and Social Green projects, from France, Romania and Spain.
- Energy communities serving vulnerable households: Under the leadership of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Energy Environment Agency (France), this Pilot involved setting up an Energy Savings Company (ESCO) contract model between energy communities and vulnerable households to install renewable energy technologies at the households. The contract would allow the renewable energy community to own the installation, with payments received based on savings. The installation would be transferred to the household once it is amortised.
- Improving energy efficiency in social apartments using smart monitoring solutions: Alba Iulia Municipality (Romania) has implemented a pilot for smart monitoring and behaviour change measures in social housing. First, the energy performance of the buildings was analysed and smart sensors and monitoring devices were installed. The inhabitants were then given advice on how to adapt their behaviour and were educated on how to use the monitoring tools, resulting in a significant improvement in energy performance.
- Energy and educational community for a vulnerable area: The Andalusian Energy Agency (Spain) has set up a pilot to create a community-funded, non-profit association to carry out the installation of solar PV on public buildings, with the generated energy provided to vulnerable households in the neighbourhood. Additionally, the pilot has involved education and behaviour change initiatives with the community. A set of guidelines and a methodology are expected for use by other regions in April 2022.
The workshop gave the opportunity to present and present and discuss three good practices identified by the POWERTY, AgroRES and CLEAN projects, which have proven successful in tackling energy poverty.
- Joint Procurement and Purchase of Solar Power: The Regional Council of North Karelia (Finland) has established a joint purchase of photovoltaics for private households as part of an ERDF co-financed project. The scheme collected interest in purchasing the PV amongst households and then implemented a collective tender, achieving cost savings of 30% compared to the average market price, with minimal effort needed from the households themselves.
- Enerterre Integration Workshops: In Lower Normandy (France), the Enerterre project enables the rehabilitation of houses in poor condition through volunteering-based participation of inhabitants, supervised by an energy-efficiency professional. The project enables the houses to be renovated, whilst also giving the individuals involved new skills and educating them on energy efficiency. In addition, it allows for the social inclusion of vulnerable citizens. Enerterre has renovated around 60 households and trained more than 320 people.
- QUANTICO Financing Model: QUANTICO (Spain) provides rental of solar self-consumption technology to households without up-front investment. Citizens need simple and easy mechanisms, without heavy personal investment, to make the transition to solar self-consumption. QUANTICO installs and maintains the technology, and the household benefits from sustainable energy through a monthly payment via ESCO principle.