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Energy poverty: European and national approaches. Publication by FEANTSA

FEANTSA-the European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless, in collaboration with Fondation Abbé Pierre, published a wonderful publication called

ENERGY POVERTY: WHAT ARE THE FOUNDATIONS FOR A GREEN AND SOCIAL PACT FOR EUROPE?

The publication is an overview of national tools for combating energy poverty across Europe and an analysis of the EU approach. It elaborates on prioritized "Green Deal" which should support the poorest households and respond to the challenges of energy poverty. The publication emphasizes that one of the basic weaknesses within the European context remains that Europe still lacks a common definition of energy poverty.

The Energy Poverty Observatory, launched by the European Commission, identified main principles to determine energy poverty:

Even though these indicators cover much of the issue, this publication argues that they fail to grasp one of the key factors - that low-income households are disproportionately vulnerable.

Energy poverty severely impacts country's economic and health situation and also its social cohesion. Moreover, there are large contrasts in realities across Europe and Southern and Eastern Member States particularly suffer from issues of energy poverty. For these reasons, the development of policy instruments to fight and eliminate energy poverty has to be done on two levels - national and European.

This report presents the following topics:

The European Framework

The European Union's policy is built on two pillars:

  1. it sets objectives to take vulnerable consumers into account
  2. it reduces the energy consumption

The European Union is working to help Member States with improving the housing situation through different programs. Now, the European Green Deal highlights the need to support the most affected people and regions and provides financial support through Just Transition Fund. With the general goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% by 2030, this fund will be directed for the regions with the biggest transition challenges in form of investments in renewable energy sources and energy efficiency in the housing sector.

The European Union recognizes the process of reducing energy consumption through increasing the energy efficiency of the housing stock and delivers a number of successful programs to finance the housing renovation, such as JESSICA , Horizon 2020 or LEMON. Moreover, there is a revolving fund which is a lending facility, continually being replenished by projects reimbursing their loans, which enables the fund to lend again to other projects.

National Intervention Mechanisms

To deal with energy poverty issues on national level, national governments provide public funds for energy and encourage different initiatives to involve also the private sector. However, these mechanisms often fail at reaching all energy poor households because of inadequate funding, targeting or lack of accessibility.

Strategies used by national governments:

The non-take-up is one of the most common issues connected to the state financial programs that fight energy poverty. This is generally linked to three obstacles - knowledge about the aid, accessibility of the aid (complexity of application process) and administrative efficiency in granting the aid. As a solution, the state can either be targeting those who are most vulnerable, or to offer the same aid to everyone. The latter, for example, provides a solution to the stigma associated with receiving of financial aid but can be financially unsustainable. To add, for example, automating payments significantly limit the risk of non-take-ups as such. At the same time, it still does not guarantee that all eligible households will benefit from this kind of support.

Energy poverty combated through renovation of existing housing stock 

The existing housing stock regularly does not confine with the most current regulations and standards on energy efficiency of buildings. Therefore, apart from direct financial support for energy bill payments, there is a material need to renovate the existing residential buildings as a means to get long-term benefit in form of increased savings from lowered energy expenses.

Social Housing

Improving energy efficiency in the social housing stock is even more complex process due to the number of actors included in the process. The key role has to be played by social landlords who adopt comprehensive and strategic approaches. The tenants have to become part of the constructive dialogue with their landlords and the motivation of the landlords has to be assured as to move with the process of housing renovations, especially in social housing.

Issues when renovating private co-owned properties

Basic challenge of renovation of co-owned properties is the amount of money required for the investment in connection of a high number of co-owners of the building. There are all legal, human and financial obstacles to renovating these types of buildings.

The multi-apartment buildings, indeed owned by many small-scale owner-occupiers, are often overlooked in the programs aiming at financial help for renovation.

In this regard, this new report by FEANTSA uses, among others, also REELIH project as an example of a project which improves the living conditions of owner occupiers of exactly these kinds of buildings.

Proposed Recommendations

You can find the whole publication here.

Organized by UN-Habitat, the conference World Urban Forum 2020 took place in Abu Dhabi from 8 - 13 February, 2020. It was already for the 10th time that this international event brought together the experts from the field and enthusiasts of sustainable urbanization to gather and exchange the views on urban issues. The theme of this tenth session of WUF was

Cities of Opportunities:
Connecting Culture and Innovation

The conference was divided into six dialogues session:

These six dialogues covered the emerging innovative approaches and practices in harnessing culture and innovation as drivers for sustainable urbanization. At the same time, the sessions provided great insight into the linkages between urbanization, culture and innovation as a basis for achieving inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities and human settlements. The emphasis was put on a synergy between tradition and modernity, and deeper understanding of multi-generational communities. Through this approach, the conference sessions tried to unfold and introduce the role of culture and innovation in implementation of the New Urban Agenda and achieving urban dimensions of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

WUF10 Training Event

Susana Rojas Williams, HFHI - EMEA Director of Housing and Human Settlements Department, was at WUF10 to speak about the success of REELIH project. UNECE was kind enough to invite HFHI to speak at their training event called

Innovative management of multi-apartment high rise housing: Localizing Sustainable Development Goals 7 & 11 and New Urban Agenda through housing strategies.

It aimed to develop practical knowledge and skills in maintenance and management of multi-apartment residential buildings and to unfold its problematic sides.

At the same time, presented were different approaches that establish a sustainable maintenance and management systems with adequate finance, direct citizen engagement, laws and regulations. The adoption of policies targeting existing housing stock is a strategy that helps realization of SDG 11 and the New Urban Agenda.

The topic of this event acknowledged the specificity of Central and Eastern European region where a significant part of the housing stock consists of old and energy inefficient multi-apartment buildings. The main issue there is that home-owners do not assume the responsibility to maintain the buildings they live in. It is a result of different factors influencing the last decade of 20th century:

This situation left residents of multi-apartment buildings unprepared for a new way of living in these yet ageing, not properly maintained buildings. Simply said, no one was there to tell the homeowners that they have the financial and social obligations to organize and pay for the maintenance and management of their common goods and properties and to ensure their building is fully functioning. Therefore, there is a critical need in this region to build homeowner associations and within them a financial reserve for cyclical maintenance and capital refurbishments for future.

REELIH project as best practice

The story of multi-apartment buildings in Central and Eastern Europe is related also to REELIH implementation countries. There, facilitating the "eco-system of residential energy efficiency stakeholders" helped fighting the described challenges.  Creating a common environment for people (home-owners), private (banks, construction) and public (local/national government) sector improved the overall efficiency of communication level between these sectors. Moreover, it eased the way in which the homeowners get into a constructive dialogue, get to an agreement for common action and access a financial and other support from private and public sectors. REELIH project's two key messages say that

without homeowners, energy efficient improvements, building maintenance and management cannot happen. Moreover, without the right institutional structure, energy efficiency retrofits, housing management and maintenance cannot scale.

Inter-sector communication is the crucial activity to be present when finding the right solutions to housing issues not only in the Central and Eastern Europe. Check out the solutions to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Armenia and Macedonia and their REELIH success stories on our websites.


Find more information about World Urban Forum here.

Find the WUF10 Declaration here.

Find the REELIH presentation for WUF10 here.

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