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Right to Energy Forum 2022: The future of energy

Between January 24-28, 2022, the annual Right to Energy Forum took place, an event organized by the Right to Energy Coalition.

This year's event took place online, which meant that it was very accessible and reached a lot of interested parties.  The focus was on the issues of energy poverty, from the present state of affairs, with people paying disproportionally high sums for energy, to the green prospects of the future, the main message being that clean and affordable energy is a human right.

What is the Right to Energy Coalition?

Right to Energy Coalition unites relevant stakeholders such as social housing providers, NGOs, environmental campaigners, energy cooperatives and others across Europe. They campaign to tackle energy poverty at an EU, national and local level.

The Coalition aims for an energy system that puts people and planet first. The Coalition was formed in 2017 to advocate for energy poverty in the 2030 EU Clean Energy package. Since then, coalition members have successfully campaigned to ban disconnections, implement free of charge renovations for energy poor households and include the energy poor as key players in the EU Green Deal

Current work includes working with the EU Green Deal and other energy efficiency legislation, as well as advocacy in member states, like local community campaigns to secure the right to energy for energy poor households during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Right to Energy Forum

The Forum took place during five days, each day dealing with a different aspect of how energy related issues should be tackled. We could here from number of speakers from all sorts of institutions, not just the members of The Coalition, but also from MEPs from the European Parliament, national decision-makers, European Commission representatives and others, showcasing how relevant both the event and the discussions taking place within it were.

We would like to highlight some sessions that really pushed the envelope.

End indecent housing: how to deliver renovations to energy poor households

Clotilde Clark-Foulquier from FEANTSA, hosted this panel with Julien Dijol from Housing Europe, Social housing sector, Eva Suba representing ENPOR, Energy poor households in the private rented sector, Louise Sunderland speaking on behalf of the Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP), Mincho Benov from our national office Habitat for Humanity Bulgaria, Sarah Coupechoux of the Abbe Pierre Foundation, and lastly Martha Myers from Friends of the Earth Europe.

This session dealt with the specific definitions of energy poverty and indecent housing, highlighting the best practices as well as new ideas in tackling energy poverty and indecent housing, such as FEANTSA’s publications50 out of the box solutionsandStaying on top of the wave”, both of which feature the REELIH project as a good example.

There were many ideas also on how to renovate the housing stock. The Regulatory Assistance Project for example, recommends renovating the worst performing buildings first.

Mincho Benov from Habitat for Humanity Bulgaria argued that the main issues in Bulgaria, highly corresponding with those of whole region of Central and Eastern Europe, are the high numbers of prefabricated multi-apartment buildings, extreme energy poverty and low incomes. The challenges have solutions in combining access to interest-free microfinancing for home improvements with life-skills training deliveries, tech advice and housing mediation and community support, advocacy work and campaigning to raise the awareness of the need of differentiated support focused on the poor households and secure the proper design of the residential energy efficiency programs, among others.

Discussion of Members of the European Parliament: Is Fit for 55 fit to tackle energy poverty?

This panel dealt with a policy package that has been thoroughly discussed across Europe, Fit for 55, which is a part of the EU Green Deal.

This session was moderated by Clotidle Clark-Foulquier (FEANTSA) with 3 distinguished Members of the European Parliament, namely Michael Bloss (Greens, Germany) Radan Kanev (EPP, Bulgaria) and Cornelia Ernst (The Left, Germany), who brought their breadth of experience and idea onto the table.

Some of the key takeaways:

The European Commission's commitments: from words to action for Europe's energy poor

As always, it is important to know what direction the EU wants to go when it comes to policy-making, which is why this particular session was relevant.

This session was moderated by Colin Roche from Friends of the Earth Europe, a partner to the Right to Energy Coalition. Present was the EU Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, Nicolas Schmit, who welcomed all attendees and said that the green transition should be fair for all.

Present were also the president of the Transport, Energy and infrastructure of the European Economic and Cocial Committee, Baiba Miltovica, Jeppe Jansen from the Energy Poverty Advsory Hub, and representing DG ENER, one of the top EU DGs that directly deals with energy related issues, Serena Pontoglio, a team leader of the Renovation Wave implementation from DG ENER and Nikolaos Kontinakis, a policy officer at DG ENER dealing with energy efficiency, bringing their accrued experience and ideas to the panel.

The key topic discussed in this panel was how energy poverty is no longer an issue concerning only the poorest ones as even the average consumers suffer a lot in paying bills for energy heating, fuel and more.

The European Green Deal is not only about economic but also about social and environmental impact. We need to figure out how to use these tools for the people to really live better, by committing to improving isolation of their homes, finding alternative sources of energy, and becoming less dependent on fossil fuels.

Many tools within the legislative framework of Fit for 55 (such as Social Climate Fund) can really help the consumers. Many of these funds are not close to the citizens, and do not reflect the fact how difficult it is to renovate for example the multi-apartment buildings. At the same time, you must go through many formalities which slow down the process of opening up the market, understanding its importance and technical aspects for renovation of multi-apartment buildings.

Local level actions tailored to the citizens are the most important when it comes to tackling energy poverty.

Why energy poverty and overall affordability in energy and housing matter

Energy poverty is more than just a buzzword, it is a reality for many people living in Europe and around the world, a reality which should not be tolerated in the developed world.

This reality has now been heavily acknowledged by the European Union, and it, together with partners, is trying to tackle energy poverty head-on with new policy packages and initiatives.

However, it is all easier said than done. As written before, there are still many dimensions of the new policies, and further technical difficulties that need concentrated effort to solve them, especially within the context of multi-family apartment buildings and their renovations.

 

 

EU Sustainable Energy Week
Beyond the crisis: clean energy for green recovery and growth

 

The last week of June traditionally belongs to the biggest event dedicated to energy efficiency and renewables in Europe – EU Sustainable Energy Week. 15th time organized Sustainable Energy Week took place not as usual in Brussels, but online between June 22 and 26, 2020. It was accompanied by Policy Conference, EUSEW Awards, Energy Days, networking activities, side events and for the first time, EUSEW introduced the European Youth Energy Day.

 

Policy Conference

This is the biggest European conference dedicated to topics of renewables and energy efficiency. The sessions are organized by the European Commission and energy stakeholders. Their focus is on sustainable energy issues, new policy developments, best practices and sustainable energy ideas.

The discussion went much around the European Green Deal and its Renovation Wave initiative which becomes even more crucial in the uncertain times of coronavirus crisis. Due to the current situation, the Renovation Wave will serve not only as an initiative boosting current low renovation rates but will become a means to support recovery process after the crisis, too.

We drive your attention toward one of the EUSEW's sessions

How can Central and Eastern Europe and the Western Balkans transition to a zero-carbon economy after the COVID-19 crisis?

which talks about the specificities and potential of CEE countries for recovery and the transformation to a zero-carbon economy. Simultaneously, the session is directed to local and regional authorities interested in examples of good practice in this region.

Take the chance and check out more of EUSEW2020's interesting sessions available on EUSEW youtube channel:

 

EUSEW Awards

The EUSEW Secretariat stands behind the EUSEW Awards together with the Technical Advisory Committee which brings together experts from different fields of sustainable energy. They then decide for the winning initiatives in different categories. Most common initiatives that apply for EUSEW Awards consist of citizen-led sustainable energy-awareness programs, public schemes promoting energy-saving buildings, and private companies leading the way in green tech and carbon-neutral manufacturing.

This year, EUSEW Awards had three categories - Innovation, Youth, and Engagement. Additionally, there were winners of Women in Energy Award, the Eastern Partnership Award and the Citizens' Award.

 

Energy Days

Energy Days – an opportunity for all to contribute. These days take place between May and June and can be held anywhere within the region of the European Union. It can be any digital activity or an event organized by local public or private organization which is non-profit and aims to attract the public to promote clean energy and energy efficiency. Just check out the map of Energy Days across Europe.

 

European Youth Energy Day

This was the first time this event took place during EUSEW. A special concept invited young enthusiastic EU citizens aged between 18 - 30 to talk about their visions on Europe’s energy future, to present their ideas on innovation and views on European Green Deal. This was a unique opportunity for European youth to meet and build a dialogue among themselves as well as with Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President of the European Green Deal, who was personally involved in the discussions. This event shall serve as a starting point of new collaboration and implementation of many great ideas, connecting young experts from different fields who are determined to make the European continent carbon-neutral and number one in the process.


 

Find more information about EUSEW2020 here.

Find all online sessions recorded here.

 

How USAID and HFHI united neighbors to heat their homes, reduce their energy bills, and strengthen their communities

 

“I’m always finding some excuse to be the last one at work because it’s warmer there. I’m fed up with high bills and chilly rooms.” — Lile Kike, Skopje, North Macedonia

“I could not afford to heat our house last year. I just turned on the stove for 20 minutes in the kitchen to make it possible for everyone in the family to sit around the table for breakfast.” — Nona Nalbandyan,Yerevan, Armenia

“When I first moved in here, the windows were old, and we covered them with blankets to stop the wind.” — Ivana Georgievska, Skopje, North Macedonia

 

Low income housing in Yerevan, Armenia. / Habitat for Humanity

These stories are all too common in Europe and Eurasia, where housing for low income residents and retirees is dominated by 1960s era apartment blocks. When the Communist bloc collapsed, a wave of privatization swept across the region. Sadly, the governance structures and financial mechanisms required to maintain these buildings did not immediately follow. The massive state institutions charged with repairs during the Soviet period no longer existed.

Many residents of these aging apartment blocks are already struggling with daily expenses. In North Macedonia, for example, 25.7 percent of the population was considered unable to keep their homes adequately warm according to Eurostat data from 2016. This way of life is perilous in a part of the world where winters are long and dark, with temperatures routinely dipping to 20–30 degrees Fahrenheit (-6 to -1 degree Celsius).

 

Building with shattered windows prior to retrofit, Yerevan, Armenia. / Habitat for Humanity

As heat escapes through the cracks in the walls and ceilings, the cost of heating a building — and keeping the lights on — rises by as much as 20 to 30 percent. The situation becomes particularly dire during the winter months, when the price for heat is too high for many people to bear.

As housing prices and energy bills continued to rise through the 1990s and into the 2000s, residents of these crumbling structures had few places to turn. Fearing the impact of skyrocketing housing costs on already fragile communities, USAID and Habitat for Humanity stepped in.

Starting in 2011 in North Macedonia and expanding into Armenia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, USAID works with Habitat for Humanity in Europe and Eurasia to help create the financial mechanisms, public awareness, organizations, and local government buy-in needed to empower residents to organize for better, healthier, more affordable neighborhoods.

USAID’s partnership with Habitat for Humanity is far from traditional development. Directly retrofitting every apartment block would have been prohibitively expensive. It would also have taken decision-making out of the hands of the residents.

USAID and Habitat for Humanity chose a different course. Habitat reached out to homeowners to inform them about how much money they were losing per month in unnecessary energy bills. Those who expressed interest in retrofitting their homes found a partner in Habitat.

 

 

Homeowner’s Association meeting in Banovici, Tuzla Canton, Bosnia and Herzegovina. / Habitat for Humanity

 

The key to success turned out to be a combination of community organizing and burden sharing. Residents had to pool their own resources, request a loan from a bank, and consistently pay down that loan as a community. Habitat helped neighbors organize and agree on a refurbishment plan. Now they only needed a financing partner.

In North Macedonia, Habitat set up its own loan fund to demonstrate that homeowner’s associations are reliable clients. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, residents started out financing the repairs through personal savings and local government subsidies facilitated by Habitat. In Armenia, Habitat worked directly with banks to craft loans tailored for homeowner’s associations.

To understand the success of the partnership between Habitat for Humanity and USAID, one only needs to visit these neighborhoods.

 

Above: Views before and after a building with shattered windows in Yerevan, Armenia, received a retrofit. Below: A building with shattered windows prior to and after a retrofit, in Tuzla Canton, Bosnia and Herzegovina. / Habitat for Humanity
In North Macedonia, where I served as acting country representative, at least 62 buildings in eight municipalities have received retrofitting, impacting more than 1,900 homeowners. In Armenia, 18 buildings (519 housing units, 1,500 residents) have been repaired. More importantly, this work so impressed the Yerevan Municipality that its leaders are considering co-financing retrofits on 900 additional units.

And in Bosnia and Herzegovina, four buildings (49 housing units, 133 residents) have been retrofitted. Now local governments in the Tuzla Canton have developed an action plan to retrofit 973 more homes. The plan will provide subsidies to match loans and other funds raised by homeowners associations.

 

A happy resident of a Habitat for Humanity-repaired home. / Habitat for Humanity

 

Beyond the numbers, Habitat for Humanity has forged a market ecosystem where homeowners, banks, and government officials work together to create healthier, more affordable housing for some of the most vulnerable populations in the region. In the process, they have also created a model which can be replicated across Europe and Eurasia because it benefits everyone in that system.

Banks now have a tested way to work with potential new customers via their homeowners associations. By pitching in now, local governments reduce the likelihood of having to invest a greater sum down the road to retrofit buildings, build new housing, or increase subsidies for electricity bills. Homeowners are empowered to take control of their own future and feel a renewed sense of pride in their homes and communities.

Most importantly, residents are welcoming the extra they find in their pocketbooks. According to Habitat, retrofitting has cut energy bills for low income homeowners by up to 50 percent.

 

 

“The difference is obvious after the windows installation in the lobby. Most of the day the boiler is switched off. This year it is very warm in the winter.” — Alaverdi Toumasyan, Yerevan, Armenia

 

 

“It feels like I’m in a dream with the roof done. It’s about time and the feeling is incredible.” — Milenko Lukich, Tuzla Canton, Bosnia and Herzegovina

 

“I never believed that our building was going to end up looking like this…it is a thousand times better, a thousand times….” — Meho Mehinovich, Tuzla Canton, Bosnia and Herzegovina

 


USAID’s partnership with Habitat for Humanity has important policy implications. Educating the public about how energy efficiency personally impacts them is a small but important step towards insulating the region from internal and external energy shocks, especially those perpetrated by foreign malign actors seeking to leverage energy access in exchange for political deference. And for those countries looking to join the European Union, which has exacting standards for energy efficiency, this new approach establishes important protocols now that may help down the road.

 

Image result for Gretchen Birkle

About the Author

Gretchen Birkle is the Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Europe and Eurasia and was the Acting Country Representative in North Macedonia.

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.

 

 

 

 

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!

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.

The 24th Conference of the Parties (COP24) to The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) took place in Katowice, Poland from 2-14 December 2018. The main task of this UN climate conference was to negotiate and agree on different topics regarding the principles aimed at full implementation of the Paris Agreement, a “rulebook” to sustainable global climate policy signed in 2015. The preliminary goal of Polish Presidency was to adopt The Paris Rulebook and create a universal systemic solution and a comprehensive approach to all important areas of emission instead of concentrating only on fragmented point-based objectives.

 

Main topics of the conference:
Paris Rulebook

COP24's key outcomes include the Paris Rulebook which is the first ever flexible system applicable for all Parties with tracking and reporting function of progress in climate action. This will allow Parties to communicate the progress and practices and compare with other actors. In regards to the EU, the rulebook will help delivering the 2030 Climate and Energy Framework.

Part of the Paris Agreement is also Global Stocktake Process which works on a mechanism of five-year cycle of countries' reviewing and reporting on progress towards the long-term Paris goal - avoiding, or at least controlling, the global warming. The structure of the stocktake process will be divided into three stages:

Among the stages, there is also a section on "loss and damage" which refer to unavoidable impacts of climate change, added especially as a response to vulnerable and developing countries.

 

WHO's COP24 Special Report: Health & Climate Change

The World Health Organization (WHO) was asked to contribute to COP24 with a special report on climate change in regards to health challenges connected to the issue. The initiative was built around the argument of delivering the sensitiveness of health to climate variation and change as well as its consideration in creation the policies and other programs. It is to point out that not only economic benefits are connected to tackling the climate change, but so is the overall health of populations.

In the report, WHO refers to air pollution as to one of the most direct linkages between climate change and ill health. Polluting energy systems are recognized as a heavy source of climate change and air pollution.

According to their research, almost four million deaths a year are caused by indoor pollution from use of solid fuels for cooking in poor households.

Section dedicated to residential and other buildings points out mostly to improper ways of heating and cooking as the main challenge especially in low and middle-income countries and other rural populations in different regions. Using inefficient stoves or even open fires means burning solid fuels and thus contributing to climate change and health issues, too.

Nearly three billion people lack access to clean fuels and stoves for cooking.

What is important is the fact that to step from polluting energy system does not necessarily mean to invest only in renewable energy. It is the best and most efficient way but in poor regions, replacing other solid fuels with, for example, liquified petroleum gas can bring a significant difference, even though it is still a fossil fuel.

Another problem identified by WHO is heavy subsidization of fossil fuels which in fact lowers its price and causes overconsumption. They call for investing more in clean energy and even give an example of households possibly benefiting from lowered clean-burning liquid petroleum gas prices in exchange from using polluting solid fuels producing indoor air pollution.

Special initiative (2016) was proposed by the European Commission in case of coal and carbon-intensive regions in transition so that they can also benefit from clean energy transition which is one of the preliminary goals of Clean Energy for All Europeans Package.


Find more information about COP24 here.

Find WHO's COP24 Special Report in full here.

Find Energy Efficiency Magazine for COP24 here

Written by Masua Mutua, Market Systems & Entrepreneurship Specialist, HFHI EMEA

When it comes to implementing projects, there is a common held opinion that a ‘one size fits all’ approach does not exist. There are, however, rare occasions where one is likely to come across practices that would actually work well for projects implemented by different partners, or in different geographies.

In April this year, I attended Habitat for Humanity’s conference on ‘Reducing Energy Poverty by Energy Efficiency Projects in Residential Buildings: The Case of Eastern Europe’. Held in Brussels and organized by Habitat for Humanity with the support of  USAID, the conference sought to promote a better understanding of residential energy efficiency among EU policy makers; introduce improved and tailor made EU policy measures addressing energy poverty and security, and advance a clearer understanding of how investing in residential energy efficiency will contribute to reducing energy poverty in the Eastern European Western Balkans regions.

The conference also sought to build on the experience of Residential Energy Efficiency for Low Income Households (REELIH), a project implemented by Habitat and supported by USAID. REELIH adopted market development approaches in addressing energy poverty. The project defined energy poverty as a severe form of poverty housing partly caused by the discrepancy between low family incomes and unaffordable heating bills. High energy bills are a result of high energy prices, poor insulation of buildings, bad consumption habits and outdated equipment[1].

REELIH project took a market-based approach to this challenge. This was achieved by involving all stakeholders who could promote, create, finance and implement energy efficiency projects, for purposes of contributing to the improvement of living conditions of families with low income. Also included were stakeholders who could develop sustainable models of Energy Efficiency in residential buildings- that save on energy costs and reduce air pollution and climate change effects.

What worked well?

To achieve this, the project engaged a combined focus on Policy, People & Finance. Speaking at the conference, Robert Archer, former Senior Policy Advisor at USAID, explained that policy, people and finance are inextricably tied together, thus the need for the three-pronged approach.

The focus on policy helped to address challenges caused by market failures and promote an enabling environment. In Armenia, for example, the local municipality provided up to 40 % subsidies on energy-efficient retrofits. In Bosnia & Herzegovina, the local government provided subsidies between 15-30%. Another area of focus in developing policy in this region has been energy price reforms. Energy price reforms continue to be an area of interest for all stakeholders.

The project also employed a people-centered approach in eradicating energy poverty. At an early stage, the project noted the unwillingness of the homeowners to participate in the proposed interventions. Home Owner Associations were then identified as a key link to reach the people. The Home Owner Associations participated in the project and lobbied their members to do the same. The REELIH team also identified the actual needs of the target group and designed appropriate energy efficiency solutions. Understanding the true value proposition for the target group and raising awareness about it was also important. For example, the team quickly understood that communicating health and comfort as a benefit of energy efficiency retrofits resonated well with homeowners as compared to communicating energy efficiency.

Even with subsidies, most homeowners still could not afford energy efficient retrofits for their houses. Among the stakeholders identified were financial institutions, which were invited to design financing models which would enable more homeowners to afford energy efficiency retrofits.

Though the definition of energy poverty may vary with context and geography, the lessons shared here would apply in Sub-Saharan Africa. The national electrification rate in Sub-Saharan Africa stands at a paltry 35%; with 632 million people lacking electricity[2]. The challenge of energy poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa can then be defined as a lack of access to energy, rather than a lack of energy efficiency. Most low-income households are still not connected to national grid. To tackle this challenge, most governments and stakeholders are promoting alternative sources of energy at both household and national levels. Initiatives vary from targeting solar housing systems to households; to installing windmills which generate power and are fed to the national grid.

To close this energy access gap, experts in this sector will need to keep designing, testing and implementing market-based models with a focus on policy, people, and finance. The underlying factor would be to ensure that all stakeholders understand the particular energy needs of Sub-Saharan Africa, and work with governments to develop policies that address those needs. The private sector should be encouraged to design affordable need-based solutions; with Finance Institutions designing and providing affordable financing options for both the private sector and targeted users of designed solutions.

[1] https://getwarmhomes.org/our-approach/energy-efficiency-interventions/

[2] IEA, World Energy Outlook 2016

Masua Mutua holds a Master of Business Administration from the University of Nairobi and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the same University. He is currently a Market Systems and Entrepreneurship Specialist at habitat for humanity international. He is based in Nairobi, Kenya. Masua is passionate about engaging the private sector and other relevant actors in designing market based solutions that meet the housing needs of Low Income Households. He previously worked as a consultant for various INGOs, where he researched and implemented various projects designed to offer market based solutions to the Low Income Households. Some of these projects were in renewable energy, agriculture, and Water Sanitation & hygiene (WASH) sectors.

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