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ComAct report: Energy poverty in the privately-owned, multi-family apartment buildings

What is ComAct?

ComAct - Community Tailored Actions for Energy Poverty Mitigation is an EU funded Horizon2020 project that aims to make comprehensive energy efficient improvements in multi-family apartment buildings in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) and in the republics of the former Soviet Union (CIS).

The key is to make renovations affordable and manageable for energy poor communities, as well as to provide needed assistance for lifting said communities out of energy poverty.

The idea is to identify energy poor households and to create a new understanding of energy poverty. Next step is intervening across the three key dimensions, being it stakeholders and communities, the financial, and the technical one, and finally testing the approach in five pilot countries - Hungary, Bulgaria, Lithuania, North Macedonia and Ukraine.

Energy poverty is rather a complex concept. Hence a detailed and specific solutions are needed to tackle it, for which there is ComAct with its new report.

The overview report on energy poverty concept

The Overview report on the energy poverty concept is aimed at highlighting the need to tackle energy poverty as swiftly as possible, as it is an issue that acts as a gatekeeper against a higher standard of living. The report was put together by a consortium of organizations that contribute to ComAct - Building Performance Institute Europe, Metropolitan Research Institute, LVOA-ALCO, OHU, ENOVA, IWO, EnEffect, Burgas Municipality as well as Habitat for Humanity International and Habitat for Humanity Macedonia. All of these organizations brought together their best experts in the field of energy poverty and housing to deliver a report on the state of energy poverty within the five ComAct pilot countries, how energy-poor are identified there, and what financial and other supportive programs are in place to support them. Furthermore, the report has identified existing financial schemes from all over Europe, which have been proven to help alleviate energy poverty in multi-family apartment buildings (MFABs).

Some of the key findings related to the concept of energy poverty are:

Energy poverty in the pilot countries

As mentioned above, the report and the ComAct project itself focuses on five pilot countries of the CEE and CIS regions:

Countries in the CEE and CIS regions have the most energy-poor people in Europe, mainly due to high energy prices and poor energy efficiency of the buildings, heating systems and appliances. In these regions, the housing stock is predominantly privately-owned and characterized by a large percentage of MFABs. This is the result of mass privatization in the 1990s, along with the deconstruction of the social safety net: utility and energy costs of the flats massively rose, burdening the family budgets. At the same time, the socialist-era collective maintenance mechanisms were left behind, and the decay of homeowners’ associations has not been addressed effectively with a clear set solution.

To address the complex roots of energy poverty, there is a need to develop a new approach to make interventions affordable, substantially influence energy costs and consequently reduce the high energy poverty level in the CEE and CIS region.

Following is a short description of the state of energy poverty of each ComAct implementing country.

Hungary

Surprisingly, the country has a rather low level of energy poverty compared to other states within the ComAct project. Just around 5 to 10% of households are energy poor in Hungary. It is mostly the rural areas, specifically the family houses that are more affected. Nevertheless, MFABs have a myriad of other specific problems, such as a large number of apartment owners that make renovation more challenging from an organizational point of view. Hungary also uses the term 'vulnerable consumer' for law-making, which is a descriptor of social status. Problem is that there are no socially targeted renovation subsidies available, which might make it harder for Hungary to implement the coming EU Renovation Wave Strategy in the most effective way.

Bulgaria

Among the ComAct countries, Bulgaria has the highest share of energy-poor households, with a whopping 10 to 35% of households being energy poor, and with only 3.6% receiving a heating allowance. The current renovation program also lacks income components to help facilitate an alleviation of energy poverty in the country.

Lithuania

Following Bulgaria, Lithuania is the second energy poorest state, with an energy poverty level of 10-26%. MFABs in cities and towns are more affected than family houses in rural areas. There also is no official definition of energy poverty, but there are some measures like heating allowances and socially targeted renovation schemes, which aim at alleviating the energy poverty stricken owners.

North Macedonia

North Macedonia is very forward thinking, as it already addresses issue of energy poverty in several strategic documents, as well as through policies targeting vulnerable energy consumers. The number of energy-poor households is comparable to that of Lithuania and Bulgaria, which highlights how being within the EU does not automatically mean a higher standard of living, as it takes time and appropriate policy work. Although the condition of buildings in rural areas is worse, the problem of energy poverty is much more severe in urban areas due to the affordability of energy.

Ukraine

Ukraine has a large energy poverty problem since the cancellation of its high energy subsidies during the last five to six years. Not all subsidy schemes were abolished and some are still in place, but as there is a large energy-poor population and the building stock has a very low energy performance, it is difficult to target these schemes at the most vulnerable consumers.

The EU perspective on energy efficiency of buildings

Energy poverty has a long tradition inside the EU, hence according to the known regulations such as the National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs), and also as a part of the Renovation Wave Strategy or the EU Green Deal, the EU has dedicated mechanisms to support building renovation, for which money is earmarked within the Recovery and Resilience Facility, as well as other instruments. Problem is though that the EU member state implementation is rather insufficient, and hence energy poverty is still a large issue.

All EU member states should ensure the necessary supply of energy for vulnerable customers and in doing so integrate an approach, which looks at various policy areas that could be used to measure and tackle energy efficiency improvements of housing. Effectively, these directives should acknowledge the existence of energy poverty and say that the protection of vulnerable consumers is a minimum requirement to eliminate it, keeping in mind that energy poverty is a broader concept than that of vulnerable customers.

Existing energy policies

The Clean Energy for Europeans package takes it a step further, as it consists of eight legislative proposals targeting various sectors: energy efficiency, energy performance of buildings, renewable energy, energy security and more. The Governance of the Energy Union and Climate Action Regulation also stipulates that EU member states should assess the number of energy-poor households, but measures and solutions are still not exactly clear. Similarly, the Energy Efficiency Directive tackles energy poverty in a way, in which it calls for measures to address vulnerable households as a priority. Lastly, under the revised Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, EU member states are required to outline relevant national measures to help alleviate energy poverty as part of their Long-term Renovation Strategies, to support the renovation of both residential and non-residential building stock.

Said legislations are also important for the Energy Community members, such as North Macedonia and Ukraine, although they have still not implemented the Clean Energy package, as their legislation is lagging behind that of EU member states.

All in all, the EU is primed to address energy poverty within and even outside the EU. However, if it means to do that properly, heavy cooperation with both the EU member states and the civil society experts will be necessary, as they are the ones with the real field expertise. And just as the overview report of ComAct illustrates, solutions must be direct and comprehensive, targeted at the most vulnerable energy consumers.


Find more information about ComAct on the official website of the project here.

For more information on the overview report and its findings, please visit this site.

Recently, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) published three in-depth national studies focusing on the state of residential building stock in Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, and the Republic of Moldova.

The UNECE was set up in 1947 and it is one of five regional commissions of the United Nations. UNECE's major aim is to promote pan-European economic integration. UNECE includes 56 member states in Europe, North America and Asia and over 70 international professional organizations and other non-governmental organizations take part in and help UNECE achieve its objectives.

As a multilateral platform, UNECE helps in achieving greater economic integration and cooperation among its member states, as well as it promotes sustainable development and economic prosperity.

Out of all sectors of economic activity, the buildings sector has the largest potential for cost-effective improvement in energy efficiency and emissions reductions.

To help capitalize on this potential, UNECE has developed the three studies under the project “Enhancing National Capacities to Develop and Implement Energy Efficiency Standards for Buildings in the UNECE Region”.

The purpose of the study for Armenia

The "National study and detailed gap analysis between the performance objectives of the Framework Guidelines for Energy Efficiency Standards in Buildings and implementation of current building energy efficiency standards in Armenia," is a report analyzing the energy performance of buildings, implementation of current building energy efficiency standards and providing country-specific recommendations to bridge gaps and enhance national capacity to develop and implement energy efficiency standards for buildings.

The main purpose is to highlight the state of multi-family apartment buildings (MFABs) in Armenia, especially concerning their energy performance. The report also includes some other important elements, such as the status of legislature and audits regarding energy performance in Armenia, as well as many other relevant policy and project highlights that succeeded in uplifting the situation in Armenia.

Important findings

The national study in Armenia revealed that buildings are one of the major sources of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). 18 per cent of the total GHG emissions is from fuel consumption in the residential buildings. The share of the residential buildings in total final energy consumption is 38 per cent. At the same time, the building sector presents significant energy saving potential, which can be realized through the effective use of modern energy efficient technologies and practices, reinforcement of robust certification systems for energy efficient buildings, and energy efficiency lending by international and local financial institutions. The Government of Armenia has put efforts into effective enforcement of recently adopted legislation in the building sector. Some relevant technical regulations and standards have also been adopted to improve the effectiveness of the whole regulatory system in the building sector.

The report itself outlined the major deficiencies of MFABs, as well as some recommendations that should be taken into consideration, not only when it comes to the renovation of energy inefficient buildings built in the second half of the 20th century, but also when it comes to relevant legislation, maintenance, and cooperation between the major parties interested in improving Armenia's situation. In a major move, the report also drew attention to the fact that Armenia should be inspired by the way other post-socialist states dealt with these buildings, such as Czechia or Poland with their establishment of associations of housing unit owners, which centralized all the relevant decision-making, thus making renovation and upgrades easier.

As an example, energy audits of multiple residential buildings proposed a standard set of measures which can bring to as much as 65 per cent energy consumption reduction:

A success for Habitat for Humanity Armenia

We are very glad to see Habitat for Humanity Armenia's long lasting efforts mentioned in the document, where UNECE recognizes their hard-work in partnership with universal credit organizations, with whom Habitat Armenia implemented housing microfinance projects that helped low- and middle-income families receive loans from financial institutions to improve their living conditions. These families used the loans to renovate and repair their homes, improve energy efficiency, and to create access to renewable energy. Through its housing microfinance projects, Habitat Armenia also provides technical assistance to families and partner financial institutions through training programs, construction technical advice and informational brochures. Other programs involve renovation of common areas of residential buildings, residential energy efficiency for low-income households and access to renewable and efficient energy in the municipalities of Vayk and Spitak.

Apart from these activities, Habitat Armenia has long been working on reforming the legislation on the management of multi-apartment buildings. The Armenian government reformed a law according to Habitat Armenia's recommendations in late 2020, which had been advocated for since 2015. According to this law, each building shall have a separate bank account for the management of its funds, which will increase the overall transparency of the fund management for each building. For more information, you can check this blog.

Conclusion

Armenia has a considerable untapped potential to improve the energy efficiency of its buildings, but several barriers and challenges must be addressed if notable progress is to be achieved in the coming decades.

In some cases, deep renovation is not possible in only one step, mostly because of the high initial investment. International collaboration is likely to remain the key for ensuring both the short-term success and the long-term viability of Armenia’s efforts. Best EU practices, already applied is some countries, show that renovation can be a long process that allows measures to be done step-by-step to maximize the final effect and reduce the energy consumption as much as possible.

As the report summarizes, Armenia still has a long way to go when it comes to energy efficient renovation. Despite this, the work that has already been done in rejuvenating the building stock makes a case for any future projects, as there definitely is a need and will to do more. The only thing that remains is to get the work done.

Habitat for Humanity Europe, Middle East and Africa has launched a new report on energy poverty aspects of the REELIH project in the three implementing countries – Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and North Macedonia. The aim of the study was to find out how these countries were able to contribute to the fight against energy poverty by encouraging energy efficient renovation of multi-family residential buildings. The study was conducted by the team of experts from Metropolitan Research Institute (MRI) and Buildings Performance Institute Europe (BPIE) and thanks to the financial support of USAID. Find out more about the interrelation between the energy efficient retrofits and energy poverty alleviation and read through the main findings of the study and our recommendations below.

How to define, measure and tackle energy poverty?

Energy poverty refers to a condition in which individuals or households are unable to meet materially and socially necessary energy services at an affordable cost in their homes. There have been many attempts to come up with a general definition of this term, however, the environment around the energy poverty stimulators is different in each country and therefore, proffered is to work with the concept of energy poverty on a specific national level.

The study highlights two standard ways of measuring this state of condition:

While each is required to capture both quality and affordability aspects of energy services that are important especially from a policy perspective, they differ in how they pin down energy poverty. As the study explains, the expenditure-based approach relies on monetary calculations derived from the ratios between the cost of energy and household income. The consensual approach relies on rather a subjective self-assessment of the households' comfort and on affordability of their housing costs. No matter what approach one uptakes,

the energy efficient retrofits have proven to be effective instruments in fighting against energy poverty faced by, especially, low-income households. What is more, they are considered the most sustainable and effective way to tackle energy poverty.

Under the REELIH project we have carried out energy efficient retrofits of multi-apartment buildings in the three of the implementation countries. The overall findings reveal that every REELIH renovation program increased the level of comfort among the multi-apartment buildings' inhabitants and symptoms of energy poverty were somewhat reduced as well. Furthermore, complex interventions managed to decrease the energy needs of apartments and thus either decreased the energy costs in a longer term or permitted to heat up at an adequate level the apartment without financial sacrifice. Read out more about the country level implementation of REELIH project in the next section.

REELIH Implementation Countries

1. Armenia: Crucial impact on the institutional level

In the common areas of 13 multi-family buildings in the cities of Yerevan and Vanadzor, the basic energy efficiency interventions that were carried out included the replacement of the doors and windows with more efficient ones, improvement of the lightning system and insulation of roof and basement. Due to the limited space for interventions, they resulted only in 2-6% of energy savings, therefore the impact on financial situation at the individual level was not that significant. However, at the institutional level, the impact was much more significant. The project initiated crucial changes in the framework conditions of energy efficiency renovations in three main ways:

 

2. Bosnia and Herzegovina: New Schemes supporting building retrofits

The pilot buildings in 4 cities were renovated. The owners joined the program to fix crucial structural problems of the buildings such as falling facades or leaking roofs. After the renovations, their comfort level increased and the energy costs are expected to decrease in the longer term. Very importantly, by upgrading from wood-burning stoves to electrical heaters, the projects have met the goals of the local decisionmakers to reduce the air pollution as well.

The shift of the project's focus from actual renovations of buildings to investment of the efforts into advancement of the legal and financial framework of energy efficiency retrofits has resulted in a growing number of municipalities and cantons starting to introduce new grants schemes to support energy efficient renovations of multi-apartment buildings.

Our implementing partner ENOVA in Bosnia and Herzegovina is conducting extensive audits of the residential building stock in multiple municipalities and based on the results of its analysis, prepare residential energy efficiency action plans for selected municipalities for implementation of recommendations.

The main obstacles that REELIH project faced in Bosnia and Herzegovina were related to the regulation of multi-apartment buildings. Namely, it is the paralyzing legal obligation that the owners who vote for the renovation have to finance it, where a simple majority decision already counts and enforcement of payment of minority is unacceptable; and non-transparent accounting mechanism of management companies. Moreover, some renovation is blocked also because of the uncertainty of the ownership of the buildings.

3. North Macedonia: enabling environment for energy efficiency retrofit works

North Macedonia is, from among the three implementing countries, a leading example in terms of tackling the energy poverty. The main reason for this is that its renovation processes are inclusive as the HFH loan is provided to low-income households as well. In North Macedonia, HFH Macedonia (HFHM) provided complementary financial assistance to the already existing renovation schemes of the local municipalities through a “Residential Energy Efficiency Revolving Fund”. A building management company funded by HFHM is now managing over 100 buildings in a professional and transparent way, and also carries out renovation works. Even in the cases where savings were not that significant, the comfort level of the apartment definitely increased. Outstanding success of Macedonian case is likewise connected with the fact that HFHM has several other energy efficiency projects accompanying the REELIH project which serves primarily as a creator of the enabling environment for energy efficiency retrofit works.

Learnings from the REELIH project and EU Best Practices

The study discussed the key considerations stemming from the evaluation of the implementation projects. It finds out that the financial and institutional environments are crucial for there are structural factors that hinder the implementation of energy efficient retrofits of multi-apartment buildings (e.g., low level of trust towards home-owner associations, lack of financial products). Improving building quality is crucial both for achieving energy efficiency and generally necessary maintenance of buildings. Another important learning from the REELIH project is that it is important to ameliorate not only the buildings themselves but the heating system as well.

Evaluation of effective renovation programs reaching vulnerable households in the selected countries has shown, however, that a number of challenges likely accompany their implementation. Therefore, the study collects the practices of different retrofits programs across the European Union and reflects on the lessons learned there as well. For instance, the analysis of the “Multi-Apartment Buildings Modernization” program in Lithuania has revealed that the uptake of loans increased, when local municipalities got involved in the program. Or that tackling the problems of the poorest can be an efficient tool to accelerate the renovation market in general. The first large-scale renovation program in Greece, so called “Saving money at home”, has managed to increase the share of dwellings with C or better energy certificate from 0% to 33%. Our analysis has, however, pointed out that sophisticated income-based criteria incorporated in the program are likely to work well only in the case of individual contracts, such as in the case of the detached houses' renovation.

However, in the setting of multi-apartment buildings where an entire building as a single entity applies for a grant might cause significant difficulties.

Overall, the lessons learned from the non-REELIH case studies suggest that the seemingly competing environmental and social goals might be united though well-designed financial schemes that combine socially targeted subsidies with loans. Social targeting of financial schemes for energy efficiency retrofits will accelerate the renovation rate if:

Recommendations for policy makers

Last part of this research is devoted to proposing several recommendations following the deep analysis of REELIH project and other best practices in tackling energy poverty across Europe, and even beyond. The recommendations are made for both EU and national level representatives. The following are the areas and the topics that should not be omitted when looking for solutions that attempt to tackle energy poverty, especially in co-owner multi-apartment buildings.


Find the full study here and the short summary here.

Find more information about Buildings Performance Institute Europe here.

Find more information about Metropolitan Research Institute here.

 

 

 

Renovation: Staying on top of the wave is a new publication by FEANTSA. In early December, 2020, FEANTSA organized a dedicated online roundtable where this new report, commissioned to Catrin Maby, Member of Welsh Government advisory group on housing decarbonisation and Member of British Standards Institute Retrofit Standards Task Group, was launched. During the event, Catrin Maby gave a presentation about the report. This presentation was followed by an open discussion, with contributions from Ciaran Cuffe, MEP from Group of the Greens, and Paula Rey-Garcia from the European Commission DG Energy - Energy Efficiency Unit. We would like to thank FEANTSA for organization of this event. We very much appreciate the opportunity to contribute to this discussion by our presence and to have a chance to put more light on REELIH project and the special case of privately owned multi-apartment buildings in Eastern Europe and the challenge they pose for energy efficiency retrofits and alleviating energy poverty.

About Renovation: Staying on top of the wave

This report is a continuation of FEANTSA's activities to contribute to the effective implementation of the Renovation Wave under the European Green Deal and to highlight the potential social risks associated with energy renovation programs.

"Low-income groups are most impacted by the climate crisis and energy poverty, and their needs must be addressed by the Renovation Wave going forward."

The report reflects upon the current situation in the EU where more than 50 million households experience energy poverty. It means that these households are not able to afford the energy they need to meet their basic households needs, such as heating, cooling, hot water, or domestic appliances. This is an issue resulting from energy inefficient buildings and appliances in a combination with low household incomes and high energy costs. FEATNSA, in this publication, provides a comprehensive analysis of different energy renovation and retrofit projects, with a particular focus on social element of this process.

FEANTSA defines a "win-win-win" scheme which should serve as a guiding principle when working on alleviation of energy poverty. The three wins are:

Assuring that all the three “wins” are met after the instalment of energy improvements in buildings is a challenging task and is affected by multiple factors. The aim of this report is to highlight the risks connected with the implementation of energy improvements so that all social groups benefit from the renovation works equally.

For the analysis, FEANTSA selected numerous examples to illustrate both positive and negative impacts and outcomes of energy projects. All of the examples are projects including energy improvements, but at the same time, not all of them are primarily focused on energy. One of the chapters is dedicated to projects which ended up having unintended negative impacts. In this way, FEANTSA was able to identify the risks connected with energy and renovation projects for future use. Lack of longer term monitoring and the evaluation of energy renovation programs, including their social impact, are identified as crucial step for more comprehensive understanding of complex renovation works.

REELIH project as an example of good practice

REELIH project, provided by Habitat for Humanity International with a financial support from USAID, was identified by FEATNSA as one of the successful projects serving as an example of good practice. Our project is showcasing how to work on energy efficiency improvements in multi-apartment buildings with a high number of homeowners. According to FEANTSA, REELIH's emphasis on providing solutions for low-income households recognizes the social need that must be addressed. Our example is included in Chapter 3 on Programmes to support lower income home-owners to renovate, which presents a specific approach to housing energy renovation due to its specific support provided for low or medium income private home owners.

Positive and negative social impacts

Based on the analysis of selected projects, FEANTSA was able to create lists of both positive and negative impacts of renovation works with an emphasis on social aspect.

Positive social impacts

Negative social impacts

Recommendations

For the final part of the report, FEANTSA prepared a set of recommendations for future projects based on their findings. Among their recommendations, you can find:

 

It is indeed a success for REELIH project to be presented as a good practice in yet another publication. We very much appreciate another FEANTSA's recognition of our project and USAID's financial support for this project, too.


Find more information about FEANTSA here.

Find more information about Renovation Wave here.

Find the fact sheet about Renovation Wave and the European Green Deal here.

In countries of the UNECE region, existing normative instruments for buildings' energy performance range from voluntary guidelines to mandatory standards applying to different building types. Its development is a complex decision-making process involving variety of stakeholders, like for publicly, so for privately owned buildings. New UNECE publication Promoting Energy Efficiency Standards And Technologies To Enhance Energy Efficiency in Buildings aims to provide better understanding of the status of deployment and implementation of energy efficiency standards in buildings in the UNECE region based on data gathered through desk research and stakeholder outreach.

UNECE | Smart Water Magazine

Our HFHI Advocacy Officer Zita Kakalejcikova and our partners Marin Petrovic from Enova, Liljana Alceva from HFH Macedonia, Varsenik Khloyan from HFH Armenia and Andrew Popelka from USAID are listed among contributors to this publication in regard to REELIH project.

Residential multi-apartment buildings

In this publication, residential multi-apartment buildings are defined as structures used primarily as dwellings for one or more households. Within this understanding, they address challenges of climatic conditions, latitude, legislative acts, construction practices, existing building stock and maintenance practices and occupant behavior, including enforcement, training and monitoring mechanisms. The main challenges connected with residential multi-apartment buildings in "Subregions C" and "E" *, which cover all three REELIH project implementing countries-North Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Armenia, are identified as follow:

Many countries, particularly in Subregion C, experience difficulties also in increasing market deployment of energy-efficient technologies stemming from incoherent policies in regard to financial incentives, lack of consumers awareness on benefits of such technologies, insufficiently developed building energy codes and lack of technical expertise.

On the other side, the publication highlights how smart solutions show good results in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Armenia because of government-supported implementation of municipal level energy management systems resulting in higher quality of energy action plans for municipalities, for residential multi-apartment buildings and public buildings.

Publication's chapter "Best Practices on Standards and Technologies for Energy Efficiency In Buildings" identifies best practices in adopting, implementing and enforcing energy efficiency standards and energy-efficient technologies for buildings in the UNECE region. These examples are organized into sections based on their performance in legislative and behavior change, technical measures, and financial mechanisms. REELIH countries are included in the following sections:

Habitat for Humanity International thanks UNECE for recognizing all successful work done in REELIH projects and USAID and our other partners for their continuous support in these projects.

Find the publication in full here.


*UNECE member States are divided into specific subregions based on their geographical location:
Subregion A: Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom;
Subregion B: Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia;
Subregion C: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Republic of Moldova, Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan;
Subregion D: Canada, United States of America;
Subregion E: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia;
Subregion F: Turkey.
Israel and San Marino are not listed due to insufficiency of data required for this study.

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.

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.

 

 

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