Since the environmental challenges are these days on top of the agenda of the European Union (EU), new strategies to incorporate green topics into various spheres, including the building sector, started to emerge more and more often. The EU’s Renovation Wave Strategy, which is consolidated into the EU Green Deal, aims to support the improvement of buildings in order to make them more sustainable and energy-efficient.
To maximize the potential of the Renovation Wave Strategy for people who are likely to face energy poverty, a collaboration between Habitat for Humanity Hungary (HFHH) and the Center for the Study of Democracy, Romania (CSD) arose
to raise their concerns toward the EU to consider the need for more region-specific recommendations how to tackle energy poverty.
As stated in the report, more than 50 million people in the EU are unable to secure an adequate level of energy for their living. The most affected regions are located in Central and Eastern (CEE) and Southeastern Europe (SEE). Both of these areas are marked by the era of socialism and a high level of marginalized communities.
While there is no official and general definition of energy poverty, we talk about it when:
- The percentage of households unable to keep homes adequately warm is considerably higher than the EU average (7.3%)
e.g.: Bulgaria – 33.7%, Lithuania – 27.9%
- The share of households who cannot afford to pay bills on time is higher than the EU average (6.6%)
e.g.: Greece – 35.6%
- The average share of household income spent on energy is typically very high in the region;
in Hungary, 9.8% of households spent more than 25% of their income on household energy in 2016
- terms such as lower GDP levels and household incomes, energy-inefficient buildings, degraded district heating systems, limited access to the diversified power supply and a high level of private ownership connect to result in a notable need for programs that target building renovations.
Not only is the current state of many dwellings in the CEE/SEE region energy inefficient, but it is also one of the biggest air pollutants in most of the region. Usage of outdated heating systems and solid fuels, such as wood and coal, as the main heating products, caused Hungary to ascribe over 80% of PM2.5 emissions to these combustibles.
Therefore, HFHH and CSD call for EU policies and funding schemes to support the renovation of buildings while taking specific needs and circumstances of the CEE/SEE region into account. As a result, they came up with 13 detailed recommendations within three major topic areas:
- stronger focus on energy poverty – an obligation of EU member states to target energy-poor households while making sure the funds are designated to address energy poverty of those living in the rural areas, urban areas and the marginalized and segregated communities
- appropriate funding instruments – mainly through tailor-made financial solutions, implementation of a buy-back program, low-rate loans, financial behaviour consultations and education in energy efficiency, and support of upgrade of the most inefficient and polluting devices
- the need for EU policies to address energy poverty – complement the EU legislation by suitable funds and measures which would target the housing issue, improvement of data collection, make sure that national governments go beyond their National Energy and Climate Plans (NECP), and direct support of the implementation of renewable energy sources.
Read the whole report with 13 recommendations here.