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Defining Energy Poverty in Eastern Europe: report from a workshop in Budapest

 

On November 25th and 26th, 2019 Centre for Social Sciences Institute of Sociology (TKSZI) in Budapest, Hungary hosted a two day International Conference and Workshop on energy poverty under title ENERGY POVERTY: From Household Problems to Climate Crisis. This event was co-organized by Habitat for Humanity Hungary together with Elosztó and Engager.

From global to local

First day of the conference was dedicated to presentations and discussion on current research, good practices and experiences around defining and measuring energy poverty in Europe with a special focus on Central and Eastern Europe. There were many interesting presentations starting from a high level overview by Diana Ürge-Vorsatz, a Climate researcher from CEU and a member of the UN International Panel on Climate Change, stressing that climate change amplifies inequalities as the severe weather changes affect and will affect the most the poorest ones. Therefore climate change mitigation needs to be interconnected with international development.

 

Following up on this, the focus shifted to national level, taking examples on energy poverty mitigation from other countries such as Spain. Spain has gone through a long path of defining energy poverty and the indicators needed to measure it from 2009, to having a full new National Energy Poverty Strategy in 2019, being in effect until 2024. This was presented by Sergio Tirado Herrero, a  Marie Curie Research Fellow from Autonomous University of Barcelona. Sergio showed by his presentation that it takes time and a lot of effort and political will to design functioning policies targeting energy poor. Similar approach was presented later by Jakub Sokołowski from Institute for Structural Research University of Warsaw, where Poland also defined energy poverty and picked other similar indicators to measure it, fitting the context of the country.

Understanding energy poverty

What we could learn for these approaches is that indicators are not meant to design policies per se. They rather serve the important purpose of recognizing the issue of energy poverty and being able to understand the phenomena. They are not meant to exactly define the person who is energy poor, which would be in a big scale very ineffective and costly, they rather serve as the basis to work out the policies from the understanding of the issue.

On this occasion, Habitat for Humanity International presented learnings from REELIH project of HFHI and USAID related to energy poverty. REELIH project was not originally designed to address energy poverty in the region. The main aim was to get the market and system of energy efficiency refurbishments of multi apartment buildings running. Focusing on working with all the stakeholders from the system, starting with the homeowners until the government to set up a working "eco-system" for people to be able to refurbish their buildings and therefore pay and consume less of the energy. However over the course of implementing the project it was inevitable to start thinking about and taking into consideration the issue of energy poverty in the region. We have contracted Metropolitan Research Institute from Budapest together with Buildings Performance Institute Europe from Brussels to conduct a *research on energy poverty in the countries of implementation of REELIH project-North Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Armenia.

Energy poverty in Western Balkans and Armenia 

There are several impediments in these countries when trying to define energy poverty. First of all, there is very severe lack of data needed to be able to measure or compare energy poverty in the countries. Many people heat only part of their apartments to be able to pay for their heating, many people use solid fuel to heat which makes it much more difficult to really find the energy poor. Most important of all for our project, the homeowners in the multi apartment buildings create big social mix of low income, middle income even higher income living in one building.

Therefore, what to do with a socially mixed community when talking about defining energy poor. There are several solutions to that offered by MRI and BPIE in their study:

However, in countries like Western Balkans and Armenia where the system of management and maintenance of multi apartment buildings does not function properly, it might be more useful to focus first on establishing one and only then start addressing energy poor. It is essential first to develop a proper and working regulatory framework for homeowners associations so they are able to act, finance and implement renovations. It is essential to develop banks to offer products to the homeowners associations and to develop national or local governments to be able to motivate their citizens to consume less energy by refurbishing their buildings. Only then it might be useful to try to focus on energy poverty when talking about multi apartment buildings. Similar process happened in countries of Central Europe such as Slovakia or Czech Republic, where only now, after refurbishing almost half of their residential building stock, they start talking about the issue of energy poverty and how to respond to it.

Energy poverty definition in Hungary

Building on knowledge gained from the first day, second day of the conference was in a format of interactive workshop serving as an opportunity for all to contribute to a draft definition of energy poverty and set of indicators for energy poverty within the Hungarian context. This was a well facilitated day, working in groups, exchanging knowledge, brainstorming and discussing together among experts to try to define and understand energy poverty issue in Hungary.

You can find out more on the ENGAGER project here.

You can find out more on the Eloszto project here.

You can find out more on Habitat for Humanity Hungary here.

*The research will be available online early next year 2020.

We have gotten an early Christmas gift and a good reason to celebrate this end of the year! REELIH project of Habitat for Humanity and USAID is included in a new publication

50-out-of-the-box Housing Solutions to Homelessness and Housing Exclusion

 by Housing Solutions Platform, which is the partnership of FEANTSA, Fondation Abbé Pierre and Housing Europe.

This compendium of different innovative and inspiring cases of housing solutions for the people locked out from decent, affordable and secure housing in Europe was launched on December 11th in the premises of the European Parliament. The publication provides a rich selection of projects attempting to overcome financial and political barriers within European housing system using many different means such as innovative construction, making use of the private rental sector, social housing, integrated approaches and more. Even thought included projects are local and many of them small-scale but should bring more light into the problem and encourage for more creativity in the housing policy. We are pleased and proud to claim that REELIH project got such a label!

Steering Group

Nine housing specialists had a hard task to select 50 from more than 100 proposed projects for the publication. This is yet another success for HFHI to say that Gyorgy Sumeghy, HFHI's Associate Director, Policy and Advocacy, acted as a member of this Steering Group and had a chance to go through all the inspiring projects himself which surely was not an easy task. Each member of the Steering Group also had a chance to nominate a project for evaluation. REELIH was Gyorgy's nomination and managed to get into the publication following.

At the same time, Gyorgy, as all the other Steering Group members, got an opportunity to introduce one of the chapters in this publication. Gyorgy wrote introductory words to Chapter 1 "Grassroot, Community and Collaborative Housing" and highlighted the problem and opportunity at the same time of communities of home-owners who must be mobilized and engaged to operate together. As he says:

"community-led housing is characteristic of local action, often small-scale, that it's about affordability, is not for profit and involves a lot of voluntary effort".

About the launch event

The launch event was opened by Freek Spinnewijn, the director of FEANTSA, and was followed by opening words from the host MEP Katrin Langensiepen, and a presentation of the report given by Clotilde Clark-Foulquier, the head of overall coordination. The second panel was dedicated to presentations of selected projects from the publication divided by themes into two sections. The first topic concerned the important role that cities play in addressing homelessness, the second covered matching housing needs and social needs. REELIH fell under this second section and Gyorgy had a pleasure to present the project of HFHI and USAID there, in the European Parliament in front of many specialists from the field and other relevant stakeholders. At the third and final panel, experts tried to answer the question of how unmet housing needs can be addressed, from the local all the way to the European level.

Check out the video record from the launch event and watch Gyuri's presentation of REELIH starting at 00:50:00. The presentation slides with all others are also available here.

About the publication

The 50 Out-Of-The-Box Housing Solutions to Homelessness & Housing Exclusion is divided into nine chapters, each covering different side of the housing problems. Our "solution" has number 13 and falls under Chapter 2 dedicated to "Innovation in Construction and Renovation".

This is probably the right place to mention and congratulate our local office Habitat for Humanity Poland which also made it into the publication with their Social Rental Agency project in Warsaw. Their project attempts to solve the problem of underdeveloped rental housing sector in Poland. By combining rental housing support, employment services and social work within a single institutional framework, they address the issue of housing shortage, poverty and unequal work opportunities in Warsaw.

It is great to see that the hard work of Habitat for Humanity is acknowledged and appreciated by other experts from the field around the Europe and further. We hope this unique publication will serve its purpose and inspire other local projects to happen and help the people who need it in an effective way which, we suppose, is at the center of all these projects.

We would like to thank FEANTSA, Fondation Abbé Pierre and Housing Europe again for giving us the opportunity to be featured in the publication.


Find more information about Housing Solutions Platform here.

Check out the new report here.

 

 

 

 

We are happy to see interest growing in the issue of energy poverty and especially in relation to energy efficiency. The Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB) recognizes the graveness of this issue, conducted a quantitative empirical analysis of energy poverty in Europe, its causes and how energy efficiency can help to fight it and published a report called Energy Poverty In Europe: How Energy Efficiency and Renewables Can Help. CEB found out that energy poverty rates are highest in Southern and Central-Eastern European countries but the problem still stays European-wide. Overall, CEB study claims that there is an estimation of 30 million people living in energy poverty in Europe.

CEB works with an unofficial definition of energy poverty as unreasonably high proportion of income spent on energy bills per household; or households that are unable to afford basic energy needs at all.

The study claims that main causes of energy poverty stem from low income, poor quality homes and energy inefficient appliances. The high rates of energy poverty correlate with higher at-risk-of-poverty rates, food poverty (inability to afford basic food staples) and higher rates of self-reported health issues.

Study's findings and conclusions

CEB was looking at how energy prices and income levels influence household energy consumption. They conclude that in a short run, changes in prices of energy and household income levels have small impact on household energy consumption. On the other hand, in a long-term, demand for energy depends on prices and incomes following this logic:

Households may forgo using gas as an energy source if prices become too high. At the same time, rise in income is associated with an increase in the consumption of either electricity or gas and should help reducing energy poverty rates.

Energy efficiency of buildings is, however, not the final stage of the process. Once the buildings have sufficient household energy efficiency improvements, renewable energy becomes another driver combating energy poverty. It is predicted that as renewable energy technology develops and capacity increases, the marginal cost of renewables will continue to fall, making them affordable alternatives to conventional energy sources.

Econometrics

After a 10% increase in the household energy efficiency score:

Moreover, after governments undertake and implement high impact energy efficiency policy, household energy consumption may drop by 4.4%. Other econometrics show that there is a direct effect of energy efficiency in helping reduce energy-related economic vulnerability.

Overall, CEB's study shows that energy efficiency improvements and related regulatory policies contribute to decreasing in household energy consumption and energy poverty rates.


Find the full report here.

Find the press release about this report here.

 

 

Centre for Social Sciences Institute of Sociology (TKSZI) in Budapest, Hungary will host a two day International Conference and Workshop on November 25th and 26th, 2019 named

ENERGY POVERTY: From Household Problems to Climate Crisis.

This event is co-organized by Habitat for Humanity Hungary together with Elosztó and Engager.

Energy poverty in Hungary has been growing and with the issue gaining a significant recognition also in European context, it has become one of the focus areas of the European Commission. There is, however, still a lack of proper definition of energy poverty. At the same time, states should be able to measure the scale of the problem among the population in order to propose possible solutions in a format of specific policies or large-scale programs that are currently absent not only in Hungary. This event attempts to contribute to the mentioned challenges and to provide a written statement giving relevant stakeholders and actors a deeper insight into the complex issue of energy poverty within the Hungarian context.

First day of the conference will be dedicated to presentations and discussion on current research, good practices and experiences around defining and measuring energy poverty in Europe with a special focus on Central Eastern Europe.

On this occasion, Habitat for Humanity International will present learnings from REELIH project related to energy poverty.

Second day will be in a format of interactive workshop serving as an opportunity for all to contribute to a draft definition of energy poverty and set of indicators for energy poverty within the Hungarian context. This is a preparation for publishing a written statement summarizing key findings and proposal for a definition and context-based indicators of energy poverty in Hungary. The participants will work in groups led by local facilitators and energy poverty researchers from the ENGAGER network.

Another interesting event on the topic of energy poverty in Europe is taking place on November 20th and 21st in Brussels.

Energy Poverty Days

are organized by an initiative called Social Innovation to Tackle Energy Poverty. This initiative is co-created by the Schneider Electric Foundation and Ashoka under the aegis of Fondation de France and accompanied by a local partner Enel Romania.

This event is the final stage of the Social Innovation's program to support innovative ideas and mature projects working in the field of energy poverty in five European countries - Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. 15 projects were selected to join 5 months acceleration program helping them improve the strategy and amplify their positive impact on society and on the environment. This program includes:

The Energy Poverty Days will be a two day conference. Day one is dedicated to a discussion of cross-sectoral perspectives on tackling energy poverty. This will be an interactive session introducing several examples of social innovation and strengthening the network among participants of the project, policymakers, researchers and social entrepreneurs attending the conference. The second day is reserved for finalists' presentations of smart solutions in their project in front of international jury who will choose the winning project for each of the five country. Most successful and winning projects will be awarded with additional grant for further development. You can find more details on the agenda here.

Habitat for Humanity International will not miss this event. Will you?

Being a long-standing partner of UNECE, especially of its Committee on Urban Development, Housing and Land Management, Habitat on Humanity International has cooperated with UNECE on several projects already. Most recently, we have contributed to a new issue of Guidelines on Condominium Management and several of our projects were published in UNECE Compendium of Best Practices. Apart from the publications, our Policy and Advocacy Associate Director, Gyorgy Sumeghy, has been a member of the UNECE Real Estate Market Advisory Group since 2016. This team of specialists assists the Committee on Housing and Land Management and the Working Party on Land Administration to develop stronger real estate markets, addressing the energy efficiency of building stock, affordable and social housing, housing finance, property valuation and registration and land markets and administration.

Affordable housing and urban infrastructure for all groups of the population

During the first week of October 2019, annual UNECE's Sustainable Cities Week took place in Geneva. In the name of "Affordable housing and urban infrastructure for all groups of the population", the discussions of the week were held about the progress and challenges related to the implementation of recent international agreements such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the New Urban Agenda and the Geneva UN Charter on Sustainable Housing. Representatives of national and local governments, private sector, academia and civil society met together to present and discuss with the wider public, as the Sustainable Cities Week is open for everyone interested in the topic.

Ensuring access to decent, adequate, affordable and health housing for all

Among other participants, Gyorgy Sumeghy representing Habitat for Humanity International likewise got an opportunity to speak on a panel dedicated to "Ensuring access to decent, adequate, affordable and health housing for all". He presented main lessons learned from Habitat for Humanity and USAID's REELIH project implemented in Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and North Macedonia, where 30 % to 70% of existing housing stock consists of pre-fabricated multi-storey apartment buildings built between 1960s and 1990s.

Residential energy efficiency for low income households (REELIH) project

There are several key challenges that the REELIH project faces in the countries where it is implemented, when trying to create a functioning market for residential energy efficiency refurbishments. Among others, these are low level of income in general, lack of "ownership" among home-owners, weak legislation for Home-Owner Associations (HOAs), limited access to finance of HOAs and energy poverty in the family and multi-family housing.

REELIH project succeeded in delivering initiatives that helped solving the challenges of residential energy efficiency (REE) in project countries by:

On advocacy level, two areas of influence were recognized:

Thanks to this project, EU-level awareness raising takes place. REELIH project practice is used as an example for further knowledge sharing such as in UNECE Compendium of Best Practices.

 

In spite of all hard work and successful stories from REELIH project, energy poverty is far from being defeated. Most of all, it is crucial to define the relation mechanisms between residential energy efficiency and alleviation of energy poverty.

This task is challenging due to lacking data from many regions and high share of solid fuels, like wood and coal, used in countryside. Another influencing factor is the nature of HOAs which in fact have mixed social composition and apart from supporting just renovation of buildings, it is important to support individual households, too.

For the research of energy poverty and residential energy efficiency, we have cooperated with Metropolitan Research Institute, Budapest and Building Performance Institute Europe, Brussels. We plan to present the completed research at the regional REELIH conference early next year in Brussels, so stay tuned!

This week, from September 23rd to September 29th, World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) organizes an annual campaign promoting greener environment in building sector. During this World Green Building Week, they attempt to raise awareness in issue of carbon emissions from all stages of buildings' lifecycle. Carbon emissions from building sector hugely contribute to environmental pollution and WorldGBC tries to encourage building companies, responsible stakeholders and other influential organizations to take green action and reduce carbon emissions from buildings. At the same time, you can take part in this campaign even as an individual if you take some action to build a greener future of buildings and show it on social media using #BuildingLife or #WGBW2019 hashtags!

 

Most importantly, as part of the 10th anniversary of World Green Building Week, WorldGBC introduces a new report "Bringing embodied carbon upfront". Following on this week's theme, WorldGBC manages to tackle all the relevant stakeholders important during the whole life cycle of a building, such as non-governmental organizations, researchers, policy makers, investors, developers, designers and material manufacturers. The vision and ambitious conclusions coming out from the report has been endorsed by many influential organizations who further encourage to adopt the recommendations for decarbonized future of building and construction industry.

For the conclusion, a short story about carbon emissions and how it all works.


Find more information about WorldGBC here.

Find more information about World Green Building Week here.

Check out the new report here.

Compendium of best practices on standards and technologies for energy efficiency in buildings in the UNECE region is a fresh publication which collected the best case studies in the UNECE region supporting energy efficiency of buildings.The case studies serve as best practice examples providing practical information as well as inspiration for others.

The report was prepared under the framework of the UNECE projects "Energy Efficiency Standards in Buildings in the UNECE region” by the activities of the UNECE Joint Task Force on Energy Efficiency Standards in Buildings. The compendium serves as a basis to improve the knowledge of UNECE member States concerning energy efficiency best practices related to existing standards and technologies, so that they will be able to develop and implement more effective energy efficiency policies in buildings.

Due to a specific character of some parts of this region such as Eastern Europe,the report turns its attention to existing building stock and its retrofitting which is a crucial activity for future development and fight against energy poverty in many countries.

Success stories and positive numbers are recorded in the following categories:

As Habitat for Humanity International EMEA has long been working with UNECE, we were approached to contribute with local best practices from the field in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Armenia and North Macedonia thanks to our common project with USAID and delivered four successful case studies focusing on residential energy efficiency.

Case studies are focusing on efficient management and maintenance of multi apartment buildings, organizing homeowners to make a common decision together, raising awareness of the energy efficiency retrofits and its process and creating viable and sustainable financial models to support vulnerable households to reduce their energy consumption. All these components are essential for an "eco-system" of residential energy efficiency to work.

All of the four case studies are included in the report, two of them showcasing REELIH project of Habitat for Humanity International and USAID and other two showcasing work of HFH Macedonia that were possible to implement thanks to their previous residential energy efficiency projects funded by USAID.

The four case studies from HFH network in the UNECE compendium:

We thank UNECE to be the convener of showcasing best practices from the region and enabling to share the knowledge further, so that these cases become a mainstream practice instead of one time project cases.


Find the new UNECE report here. Find more information about REELIH project on this website and here. Find more information about UNECE here

This week, being it on purpose or not, Brussels is hosting not one, but several energy-related events that our representatives from Habitat for Humanity International are attending, too. Experts, stakeholders and activists from all around Europe will meet in one city to discuss the challenges of global warming and ensuring energy security for better future for all. Having tradition since 2006,

EUROPEAN SUSTAINABLE ENERGY WEEK (EUSEW)

organized by the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (EASME), has become the leading event offering many panels, discussions, sessions, workshops and presentations during the whole week between June 17th and 21st, 2019. EUSEW is not an ordinary conference but rather a combination of talks, panels, fair, competition awarding and many other activities promoting sustainable energy innovation. The platform consists of four major events including Policy Conference, Networking Village, Awards Competition and Energy Days which gives space and opportunity, in fact, for everyone to fit in and take part this week. The main pillars of the platform are energy efficiency, decarbonizing the economy, research, innovation and competitiveness, so wondering about housing challenges, this topic surely will be part of the program.

• The Policy Conference
Organized by the European Commission, the main aim of this conference is to provide space for experience-sharing and promotion of energy efficiency practices and renewable energies. Thanks to this event and learning about successful policies, Europe can make a step forward the EU's energy and climate goals. The Policy Conference will take place between 18th and 20th of June, 2019.

• Networking Village
Another part of EUSEW is unique Networking Village which brings the EUSEW community together to forge alliances and provides with space for information-sharing. It is one of the complements to the high-level Policy Conference. The village will consist of Energy Fair, Energy Lab and Energy Talks. Like the Policy Conference, the Networking Village will be open for everyone between 18th and 20th of June, 2019.

• Sustainable Energy Awards
EUSEW Awards celebrate the outstanding ideas transformed into projects and award the year's most successful projects for clean, secure and efficient energy. There are 12 finalists who will be considered by the expert jury and even by you, if you are a European citizen (public vote). The winning projects will be eventually awarded in categories of Engagement, Innovation, Leadership and Youth. This year's competition and voting process is already closed, however, for future competitions, anyone within the EU can submit their recent project that helps work towards the Energy Union. This year's Awards Ceremony will be held on 18th of June, 2019.

• Energy Days
Energy days do not take place only in Brussels and only during the week of the conference but take place throughout months of May and June anywhere in Europe. This project serves as to roof the activities and events throughout whole Europe to promote clean energy transition. Anyone interested in clean energy transition and energy efficiency is encouraged to organize any kind of workshop, conference, competition or anything else related as to engage citizens for action in building Energy Union, let's say in the topic of housing issues as well. There are no limits on size or length of the event. It can be something local or more region-oriented, it can last from few hours to week or month. All the events are available on Energy Days Map.


Find more information about EUSEW 2019 here.

Energy as a basic human right? That is what Right to Energy Coalition (R2E) formed in 2017 believes is a key to overcoming the complex issue of energy poverty. Since then, R2E has been calling for a strategic action to tackle the root causes and consequences of energy poverty. There is need for an integrated and holistic policy approach in regards to energy poverty since the issue brings different challenges together. The R2E considers

warming world, increasing social inequality and unjust energy system

as the key areas contributing to energy poverty. Energy poverty is understood by R2E as a political choice that inevitably needs political response that is, however, many times lacking.

R2E's main points in reaching fair energy transition:

Connecting trade unions, anti-poverty organizations, social housing providers, environmental and health organizations and energy cooperatives, R2E organizes between June 19 and 20, 2019  Right to Energy Forum in Brussels, Belgium. During the workshops, conferences and two plenaries for collective reflection and strategizing, activists and specialists in energy poverty will meet, share and discuss the experience, stories, practical skills and challenging questions regarding the growing discontent in climate policies. Habitat for Humanity International will be there organizing a workshop on Energy poverty from Eastern European angle on the 19th of June 3:30 PM. Will you?


Find more information about Right to Energy Coalition here.

Find more information about Right to Energy Forum here.

Find the newest findings in R2E's report "Power to the people" here.

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