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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.

 

 

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.

On October 28, 2021, Housing sector organizations released a joint statement on decarbonization of the EU housing stock, calling the European Commission (EC) to implement 6 key sets of recommendations that can ensure healthier and safer environments for all citizens. Find out what the recommendations are and why their implementation is inevitable.

In their statement addressed to the EC asks to ensure that the transition towards a decarbonized housing stock will maintain its affordability, safety and accessibility. The timing of this initiative is driven by the foreseen EU policy developments with respect to climate policies, in particular the upcoming proposal for amending the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) planned for December 2021, and notwithstanding the Renovation Wave Strategy and Fit for 55 developments.

Ten signatories of the statement act under the umbrella of the European Housing Forum coalition. The coalition brings together major international or European organizations that represent the entire housing sector, including housing consumers, providers, and professionals. Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI) has joined the signatories as well.

HFHI contributed with its review of the proposed statement and highlighted the need for specific approach to alleviate energy poverty in Central and Eastern Europe and Commonwealth of Independent States region (CEE/CIS), and the case for renovation of multi-apartment buildings, community building and support of homeowner associations in this regard.

In the joint statement, the signatories emphasize the need for “affordability” being a guiding principle when it comes to Renovation Wave Strategy. In parallel, to mitigate the affordability risks, they point out that the EC must refine the financial components of the Strategy so that the funds are sufficient and targeted, and the allocation mechanisms transparent and safeguarded. Furthermore, for successful implementation of the Strategy, the legislative requirements of the proposed policies within the Strategy must be fit for purpose, meaning they must be flexible, progressive, and cost-effective. For a quality Renovation Wave, the Strategy must incorporate a holistic and integrated view of buildings and their renovation. That is an approach that “beyond energy efficiency seeks to improve well-being and comfort of occupants, technology-neutrality as well as the heritage and use values of buildings”.

Therefore, the coalition recommends the following:

    1. Prioritize measures that demonstrably lead to the greatest CO2 reductions for the lowest costs for building owners and residents;
    2. Refrain from one-size-fits-all solutions;
    3. Guarantee that any introduction of new mandatory requirements, including MEPS are led by a sectoral and progressive approach, cost-effectiveness guiding principle and flexibility and focus on the overall objective rather than specific and detailed measures;
    4. Activate dedicated funding
    5. Enable quality and targeted training and re/up-skilling of workers and professionals across the sector (construction workers, assessors for respective tools etc.)
    6. Ensure the establishment, address the current bottleneck and facilitate the efficient management and long-term sustainment of One-Stop-Shops (OSS) to provide assistance and support for renovation to the various segments of the housing sector and the various ownership structure.

 


Find out more about the recommendations by checking out the full version of the Statement here.

 

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