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ENPOR Lunch Talk: Will Fit for 55 help the energy poor?

The current trend of rising energy prices is a worrying one. Not only because it means that people will have to devote more of their salaries to simply pay for energy in their homes, but also because it exacerbates the already negative trend of energy poverty.

Energy poverty as phenomenon is not a universal one. It has many definitions and sources, but one people can agree on is that it is influenced by energy prices in a rather major way, as people paying exorbitant sums for energy, leaving them less and less money for themselves each month is problematic. As a way to ameliorate his, renovations and adherence to modern energy performance standards of buildings should be a priority, at least according to organizations and projects such as ENPOR.

What is ENPOR?

ENPOR is a project that aims to tackle two challenges: energy poverty in the private rental sector (PRS), and testing energy efficiency support schemes, identifying energy poor tenants and homeowners.

Objectives

ENPOR plans to tackle said challenges through three main objectives, them being:

To ensure ENPOR's success, a wide variety of partners and groups have been mobilized, ranging from homeowner associations through utilities companies, to NGOs or policymakers. Among the policymakers, the EU has been a key actor, especially after the inception of the EU Green Deal, the Renovation Wave Strategy and other schemes, among which we can count the Fit for 55 legislative package, new policies and regulations to steer the EU towards a more climate aware future. This was also the key topic at ENPOR's latest Lunch Talk.

Fit for 55

Fit for 55 presents the beginning of a new legislative direction for the EU for the upcoming years. It represents the basics of the EU Green Deal, New European Bauhaus as well as the Renovation Wave Strategy among others, all of which contribute to the larger idea. As per the EU definition:

Fit for 55 refers to the at least 55% emission reduction target which the EU has set for 2030. The proposed package aims to bring the EU’s climate and energy legislation in line with the 2030 goal.

Reducing emissions is the overall goal, and the legislative package is quite complex, as it targets many diverse sectors, such as energy, climate, transport, and housing. Obviously, energy and housing are very closely connected, which ENPOR itself picks out as the main area of interest.

To highlight a few relevant parts of the Fit for 55 package:

And these are just some of the important changes brought by the package.

Conversation at the Lunch Talk

At the Lunch Talk, the panel included representatives of different key stakeholders: Helene Sibileau (BPIE) Emmanuelle Causse and Emil Martini (UIPI), Louise Sunderland (RAP) as well as Gyorgy Sumeghy from Habitat for Humanity EMEA and Ina Karova from the Energy Agency of Plovdiv.

Energy efficient renovation of the existing housing stock is one of the main solutions to reduce energy poverty.

The above written was one of the main talking points of the Lunch Talk that the majority of the guests agreed on. In ENPOR's case, privately rented housing requires renovating those homes that need to overcome several existing conflicts and problems.

Fit for 55 is a very useful legislative package, however, it is also one that can have some seriously damaging consequences if not finetuned properly. According to the Commission, the Social Climate Fund, for example, will help lower the costs for those exposed to fossil fuel price increases during the transition to greener developments, but the issue is that the amount of proposed funding will be insufficient to deliver wide-spread renovations and renewables for energy poor households. As well as this the new emission trading system might also negatively impact energy pricing, making bills even pricier.

Gyorgy Sumeghy from Habitat for Humanity also contributed to the conversation, highlighting work in both REELIH and the ComAct project and saying that owner occupied multi-apartment buildings should be given the same attention as social housing in Western Europe. He proposed that it is the homeowner communities, who need to be convinced first to make the renovation happen, and that requires complex technical assistance and community facilitation. He suggested going for a lower, more sustainable subsidy schemes to incentivize people to also invest into renovation themselves, making it possible for programs to run longer.


For more information on the Lunch Talk and additional resources, please visit this site.

To see the recording of the session, please click here.

The truth is that energy efficiency of residential sector has finally gained more attention among the key EU stakeholders. It became clear that the building sector is critical for achieving EU's environmental goals. However, as we pay more and more attention to this issue, investment gaps in residential sector financing of energy efficiency are becoming increasingly evident. One among many financial support mechanisms aiming at the residential sector are grants. Speaking about the existing gaps, these are not an exemption. On November 18, 2021, the Energy Community therefore organized a Workshop on financing energy efficiency in residential sector. Participating experts aimed to explore the state of energy efficiency measures in the residential sector with respect to financing.

Energy Community: Who are they?

With the aim of establishing a stable Pan-European energy market, in October 2005, the European Commission has signed the Energy Community Treaty establishing a new international organization, the Energy Community.

The main objective of this organization is to extend the EU energy acquis to countries in South East Europe, the Black Sea region and beyond. In doing so, the Energy Community seeks to improve the environmental situation, enhance economic development, and strengthen social stability across the region.

Recently, on November 30, 2021, the Energy Community held its Ministerial Council, where it adopted five key legislative acts towards the implementation of the Clean Energy for all Europeans package. At the next Ministerial Council planned for 2022, the Energy Community will adopt renewables, energy efficiency and greenhouse gas reduction targets for 2030.

Energy Community in Action: Workshop on Financing Energy Efficiency in the Residential Sector

To foster the dialogue, Energy Community actively engages the stakeholders from the field on numerous occasions. On November 18, 2021, the Energy Community organized a Workshop on financing energy efficiency in the residential sector. Above all, the energy crisis has proved that integration of small isolated markets at pan-European level is crucial. Stable environment for financing and investment decisions is key to boost energy performance of buildings that is institutionally anchored in the EU´s Energy Performance of Buildings Directive and the Energy Efficiency Directive.

Therefore, the workshop brought together speakers from various organizations and institutions who shared their insightful expertise. The main topic of their discussion was allocation and share of grants as financing tools to reach energy efficiency targets. Moreover, they also talked about different possibilities of other scaling up elements of renovations.

Voices of Experience and Expertise

Among others, Tamara Babayan from the World Bank and Set Landau from the consultant firm Eco ltd. presented the findings of their extensive “Residential Energy Efficiency Market Analysis in the Western Balkans”.

Nora Cimili, Energy Efficiency Specialist from the Millennium Foundation Kosovo (MFK) presented about Pilot Subsidies on Energy Efficiency in Kosovo, that are part of Reliable Energy Landscape Project implemented via Kosovo Threshold Program that is funded by Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) - an agency of the US government.

How to make lending to homeowner associations attractive?

Habitat for Humanity International was honored to participate at this workshop as well. Gyorgy Sumeghy, Associate Director, Policy and Advocacy, presented about financing gaps that exist in the housing sector of Western Balkan countries.

In these countries, homeowners associations (HOAs) of multi-apartment buildings are perceived as extremely high-risk targets of lending by banks. As Gyorgy explained, the reasons for such a restrained perspective of banking sector are various. They include limited availability of financing products, restricted institutional capacities, or viability of lending. As a result, in Western Balkan countries, lending to HOAs is insignificant, if not non-existent. Gyorgy talked about all the key gaps in banking and introduced specific recommendations for:

If interested to find out more about these, you can read the full analysis prepared by our experts here: “Gap Analysis of the Housing Sector in Western Balkans: Bosnia and Hercegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Serbia vs. Slovak Republic”.


To find out more about the presentations of other speakers, visit the website of Energy Community and feel free to download their presentations here.

What is the EU Green Week about?

The European Union is becoming very serious about creating a greener future and the annual event called EU Green Week only proves this fact. The week starting with the 31st of May, until the 4th of June was dedicated to hosting the annual series of events concerning how to tackle pollution. These events included high-level political debates, awards, virtual exhibitions, preview features and side-events, as well as the hundreds of the EU Green Week Partner activities staged all over Europe.

Pollution affects each of us through the air we breathe, the water we drink and the land that sustains us. Pollution can be present in our residences, making living conditions much worse than they should be. It is the largest environmental cause of both physical and mental illness, and a major factor in the premature death of children, people with medical conditions and the elderly.

The EU Green Week 2021 brought together different groups in society together with stakeholders and policymakers to thrash out the solutions and make the ambition for a zero-pollution and toxic-free environment a reality.

Air pollution and energy poverty

Perhaps the most interesting of the events that took place during the EU Green Week was a partner event, which discussed how to tackle and combine energy poverty and air pollution into a single-issue area. This event took place on the 3rd of June, and was organized by the new Energy Poverty Advisory Hub. This is a currently ongoing EU initiative aiming to build upon existing energy related structures, transforming the Energy Poverty Observatory into it, while using the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy and the Clean Energy for EU Islands project as extensions of its base.

In large parts of Europe, low-income households often suffer from a combination of poor domestic heating systems, insufficient insulation and limited financial resources to access sustainable energy services. As a result, there is a visible impact on the air quality, which has a big impact on the livelihoods and health of residents. Therefore, this partner event focused on the tight connections between air quality and energy poverty, and how household energy renovations could be the answer to the problems of vulnerable energy consumers, such as those living in the region of Central and Eastern Europe, for example.

Analytics and good practices

The event was moderated by Jeppe Mikel Jensen from the Climate Alliance, which is a group dedicated to stopping further deterioration of the climate and environment. The speakers represented a wide variety of organizations across Europe, with people such as Teresa Aristegui, a Policy Officer from DG Energy, EU. She presented the EU’s views on how the Fit for 55 package will be one of the key measures in strengthening the energy performance of buildings to promote greener and healthier renovation.

Ina Karova from the Energy Agency of Plovdiv in Bulgaria, which is an agency that has been studying the link between energy poverty and air pollution for more than a decade, has contributed to the discussion, too. According to the investigation that Ina has been a part of,

energy poverty increases the use of raw materials for heating, as well as it creates a culture of low energy consumption, poor energy habits, lack of energy and environmental damage.

This is especially true for households heating with wood and coal, which they found to encapsulate the heaviest issues of energy poverty, such as poor housing conditions, cramped apartments, and the fact that the elderly and disabled live in even worse conditions than those heating with wood and oil.

Wood and coal are expensive, impractical, and ineffective materials for heating, hence a solution to tackle the alarming air quality that stems from such heating sources would be to change stoves into more efficient ones, upgrading boilers as well as a reduction in energy generation by using fossil and non-renewable fuels. This, according to their research, brought a 10% reduction in energy consumption and a 30% increase in air quality, which is a small, but significant win.

A living example of grave air pollution is also North Macedonia's capital city of Skopje. Back in 2019, Habitat for Humanity EMEA in cooperation with Habitat for Humanity Macedonia produced a short video "Winter, Leave" capturing the situation in Skopje to raise awareness and knowledge about this particular issue.

Joao Pedro Gouveia, a senior researcher from FCT-NOVA University of Lisbon, highlighted the issues of energy poverty in Portugal, but also shed a light into how such problems can be universal across Southern and Eastern Europe. According to him, it is also important to look at

different backgrounds standing behind the problems of energy poverty which definitely differ between EU regions.

Energy poverty is linked the abundance of harmful pollutants present in homes due to inefficient energy consumption. Electrification and a replacement of inefficient biomass and coal fueled equipment should, therefore, be a necessary step to address energy poverty as well as health related concerns.


Find more information about the EU Green Week and the recordings of the sessions here

Find more information about the transition of Energy Poverty Observatory here.

 

 

Housing Solutions Platform is an initiative which aims to identify, debate and promote innovative solutions for affordable housing in Europe. It was established with joint efforts of FEANTSA, the Fondation Abbé Pierre, Friends of Europe and Housing Europe. Last year, they published "50-Out-of-the-box Solutions to Homelessness and Housing Exclusion" which is a collection of some of the most innovative and daring examples of housing solutions in Europe. We very much appreciate that Housing Solutions Platform recognized REELIH project and included it as an example of best practice in this publication.

This year, among hosting other roundtable discussions and webinars, Housing Solutions Platform prepared a series of three webinars under name #50Solutions:

The series of webinars touches upon topics connected to current events, such as response to COVID-19 crisis in relation to homeless and vulnerable groups, and the European Green Deal. The first webinar talks about the challenges that came with the pandemic situation and the emergent need for support of the most vulnerable people who suffer the most from the housing difficulties. The second and the third webinar showcase some of the 50-out-of-the-box solutions under two thematic discussions. The second webinar promoted discussion about the alternative forms of land and property ownership.

The last webinar was organized in the context of the European Green Deal and freshly introduced Renovation Wave Strategy, which ambition is to trigger massive building renovation as a contribution to climate neutrality, mandatory minimum energy performance standards and affordable housing initiatives. The projects presented during the last webinar of this series combine social and ecological objectives in their initiatives. We are very glad that we could present REELIH learnings during this session, together with French project Toits d'Abord by Fondation Abbé Pierre and Flemish project Sustainability Through Energy-Effective Retrofit by VVH – Association of Flemish Social Housing.

The webinar offered a fruitful discussion on topics of undergoing the renovation process and energy efficiency improvements in lower-income households and vulnerable groups both through private and public funding. The special thanks belongs also to Julien Dijol from Housing Europe who reflected on all three presented projects in relation to the Renovation Wave Strategy. He acknowledges the specific intention of the Renovation Wave to support especially Eastern European states and its multi-apartment buildings. This is aimed to be done mostly through the technical support and creation of one-stop-shops where entities, such as municipalities or public housing companies, could act on behalf of homeowner associations and serve its purpose as community facilitators in a way.

If you missed the webinar, you can follow up by watching the recording from the event available on Housing Solutions Platform website.

On October 14, 2020, the European Commission has published its Renovation Wave Strategy which aims at improving the energy performance of buildings. Just two days after its introduction, C4E Webinar took place as part of the Central and Eastern Energy Efficiency Forum C4E 2020 edition. This webinar was opened by the European Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson and for the panel session, invited were official representatives responsible for energy from Croatia, Bulgaria, Czech Republic and a member of the European Parliament from Romania to discuss about how the Renovation Wave Strategy could be turn into practice in CEE countries.

Check out more about the C4E webinar, the discussion and its summary here or watch the session below.

On 13 February 2018, the LEDS-EEP organised the webinar "Learning from Eastern Europe: An energy efficiency model to reduce energy poverty in residential buildings," presented by Besim Nebiu and Zita Kakalejcikova, from Habitat for Humanity International. This webinar introduces the viewer to the processes and outcomes of the Residential Energy Efficiency for Low-Income Households (REELIH) project, run by Habitat for Humanity International and supported by USAID.

Residential heating energy accounts for more than 30 percent of energy use in most countries of Europe and Central Asia, and for more than 40 percent in the Balkans. Construction and heating methods used between the 1950s and 1980s were not focused on energy savings and environmental concerns, and as a result, highly inefficient energy use today intensifies the impact of escalating energy prices on low-income households. There is thus an urgent need to retrofit most of this housing stock to bring down heating costs and reduce energy poverty.

One way to bring down heating costs is to invest in energy-smart building renovations. One significant obstacle in the way of such renovations is that building owners have difficulty in reaching investment decisions together—a problem often made more difficult by legal complexities.

Habitat for Humanity International, with support from USAID, has run demonstration projects in Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), and Macedonia to raise awareness among homeowners, improve legal environment, and introduce new market solutions.

Habitat for Humanity has also carried out comparative research on state programs in Central Europe that have been successful. Based on its research and project findings, Habitat for Humanity hosts a dedicated regional knowledge platform at getwarmhomes.org, as well as national knowledge platforms for BiH and Armenia.

ABOUT THE WEBINAR

Residential heating energy accounts for more than 30 percent of energy use in most countries of Europe and Central Asia, and for more than 40 percent in the Balkans. Construction and heating methods used between the 1950s and 1980s were not focused on energy savings and environmental concerns, and as a result, highly inefficient energy use today intensifies the impact of escalating energy prices on low-income households. There is thus an urgent need to retrofit most of this housing stock to bring down heating costs and reduce energy poverty.

One way to bring down heating costs is to invest in energy-smart building renovations. One significant obstacle in the way of such renovations is that building owners have difficulty in reaching investment decisions together—a problem often made more difficult by legal complexities.

Habitat for Humanity International, with support from USAID, has run demonstration projects in Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), and Macedonia to raise awareness among homeowners, improve legal environment, and introduce new market solutions. Habitat for Humanity has also carried out comparative research on state programs in Central Europe that have been successful. Based on its research and project findings, Habitat for Humanity hosts a dedicated regional knowledge platform at getwarmhomes.org, as well as national knowledge platforms for BiH and Armenia.

This webinar, delivered in English, takes place on February 13, 2018, from 15:00 to 16:00 CET. Participation is free of charge. To register, please contact tmorante@rec.org.

To join the webinar, please go HERE.

ABOUT THE PRESENTERS

Besim Nebiu

Besim has been with Habitat for Humanity for more than 10 years, and is currently project manager of the “Residential Energy Efficiency for Low-Income Households” (REELIH) project and program manager for several Habitat for Humanity countries in the ECA region, such as Armenia, Bulgaria, Macedonia and Poland. He has also worked for international organizations as a program personnel and consultant. Besim, who holds a master’s degree in economics from Ss. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje, combines his professional third-sector engagement with civic activism.

Zita Kakalejcikova

Zita has been with Habitat for Humanity’s area office for Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) since 2014, working in the advocacy team that supports EMEA advocacy initiatives to change housing policies at both regional and national levels. In her current work with Habitat for Humanity on the USAID-run REELIH project, Zita is focused on regional-level advocacy for residential energy efficiency. She holds a master’s degree in international relations and European studies from Comenius University, Slovakia, having spent exchange semesters at Sciences Po Bordeaux and the University of Vienna.

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