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OCTOBER: a month of online conferences

Year 2020 is rather a strange year due to enormous impact of COVID-19 crisis that has changed the way of living of most people around the world. At the same time, the question of adequate housing became "a must" and moved to the center of many discussions around the globe which is overall a positive sign. Since in-person conferences are still not in the foreseeable, the discussion moved to the online space. Even though the online versions of conferences do not bring the benefit of personal meeting with various specialists and stakeholders, the conferences and enriching presentations, on the other hand, become more accessible for anyone who is interested in the topic. And so, there are many opportunities this month to learn more about energy efficiency and housing from different perspectives since many leading housing organizations considered October as the best time of the year to organize at least online form of their, some already postponed, events.

 

Sustainable Cities Week

The first week of October 2020, UN-ECE organizes exceptionally an in-person event Sustainable Cities Week in Geneva, Switzerland. The first day of this event is dedicated to discussion of SDG 11, its successes and challenges in implementation process. The second day belongs to The Forum of Mayors bringing together city leaders from Europe, North America, Central Asia and Caucasus under this year's topic "City action for a resilient future". Next two days are reserved for the 81st Session of the Committee on Urban Development, Housing and Land Management to discuss the implementation of key international agreements such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the New Urban Agenda and the Geneva UN Charter for Sustainable Housing. The last day belongs to the annual meeting of Sustainable Smart Cities.

 

FEANTSA Online Conference

FEANSTA Conference 2020 is another event held online in the first week of October. This is an online version of their annual conference that usually takes place in June. This online event will be composed of series of webinars running throughout the whole week. For each day, they prepared series of three one-hour webinars. The topics cover homelessness in various perspectives, talking about specific groupings of people, such as LGBTIQ, asylum seekers and refugees, working poor, women, youth... COVID-19 and its impact on the homelessness will be discussed as well, together with social enterprises, eviction prevention, housing first initiative and usage of EU Funds to combat homelessness.

 

Housing Europe Annual Conference

HOUSING EUROPE's Annual Conference has been, too, moved to online world. The narrative of this high level event will be a bit unusual, ceasing from the price tags and financial issues connected to housing in big cities. Instead, it will be leading the focus toward much-neglected social value of housing.

 

 

The 15th Annual Session of Global Forum on Human Settlements & Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements Awards Ceremony

Another online event is organized between October 15 and 16, 2020 by Global Forum On Human Settlements as The 15th Annual Session of Global Forum on Human Settlements & Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements Awards Ceremony. The main theme of the event is Post-Pandemic Recovery and Transformation: Resilient Cities, Healthy Planet. Thematic Forum 2b will be on energy-efficient and sustainable housing prepared and hosted by UN-ECE.

 

The 18th European Week of Regions and Cities 2020

The last, but definitely not the least, October event is the three week series of online events under the 18th European Week of Regions and Cities 2020. Each week is dedicated to different topic, first being "Empowering citizens", second on "Cohesion and Cooperation", and the last on "Green Europe". On Monday, 19 October, there will be a session on Energy efficiency: low-income households where Brussels-Capital Region, Ghent, Lille Metropole and Vienna will share their actions in upgrading the energy efficiency of existing buildings and alleviating energy poverty for low-income households.

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.

 

ASSIST Final Conference
From local to European: barriers and solutions to tackle energy poverty

 

 

ASSIST is currently in its final project stage and to share their experiences and knowledge, they organized a three day final online conference. The fruitful discussion and enriching presentations about energy poverty took place online between 9 and 11 June, 2020. During the final conference, ASSIST presented on their successful multidisciplinary strategy to tackle energy poverty in Europe and the implementation of a holistic approach. The conference was wrapped up by introducing of ASSIST’s final document – policy framework paper to tackle energy poverty.

Background of ASSIST Project

ASSIST project offers a two-way approach to the problem of energy poverty:

A crucial point of the project was the development of in-depth knowledge on consumer vulnerability and contribution to the development of a unique definition of energy poverty for its identification and measuring in future. Thanks to these activities and combined results with specific policy orientation tasks, national and European stakeholders are a step closer to measure household energy needs and target energy efficiency measures to low-income households living in energy inefficient buildings.

ASSIST's impact:

Final Conference

The final conference was held online due to coronavirus crisis. The conference was structured into three complementary sessions approaching different perspectives of energy poverty. Each day was devoted to another topic, but all were covering energy poverty from different perspectives.

Day One - Session 1:

How are local actions and social innovations necessary to put vulnerable consumers at the heart of policies addressing energy poverty?

This session was a round table discussion with members of the national Vulnerable Consumers Steering Committee from each ASSIST participant country – Belgium, Poland, Italy, UK, Finland and Spain. The speakers were brought to the table from different sectors so that different perspectives of the project implementation could be shown in the introductory presentations. The representatives presented their country’s experience of how the work of ASSIST has contributed to the implementation of local initiatives and vice versa.

The speakers were discussing what local, regional and national energy poverty initiatives shape the fight against energy poverty. They agree that it is a multidimensional issue affecting different sectors; including public policy, social and health affairs, environment, finance, energy market, home-owner associations.

To be successful in alleviating energy poverty, all the sectors must be included in the dialogue and cooperation.

Day Two - Session 2:
Challenges to tackle energy poverty: views from EU projects

This session presented the insights from some of European initiatives with their coordinators who were sharing their methodologies and results on what has been already achieved and what are the future goals. Energy efficiency was introduced under Horizon2020 program and LIFE program which is a new funding opportunity for the new budget period.

It is evident that energy efficiency measures are very much relevant and its implementation should be well promoted.

Day Three - Session 3:
EU policy to tackle energy poverty and protect vulnerable consumers in Europe: proposal and recommendations

During the final session of the ASSIST conference, new policy framework was presented. It illustrates political pathways, policy recommendations and proposals in different areas to promote vulnerable consumers’ protection in the energy market. This framework paper called "Vulnerable Consumers Protection Framework Paper" was published as a final document deriving from experience gained during the implementation of ASSIST Project in different environments.

The round table discussion was held between different stakeholders working at European level in the institutional, political and social sector. Discussed were opinions and reaction to the introduced policy paper and what issues remain critical to alleviating of energy poverty at European level. The issue of energy poverty is by now politically well recognized among the Member States.

However, policy measures in mere financial support, as it is seen across Europe, do not solve the elementary problem – the drivers of energy poverty:

price, income, energy efficiency for energy poor/vulnerable houses.


Find more information about ASSIST Project here.

Find more information about ASSIST Final Conference here.

Find videos, digests and other materials from ASSIST Final Conference here

Find more information about the new publication "Vulnerable Consumers Protection Framework Paper" here and the publication in full 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.

 

 

Another interesting event on the topic of energy poverty in Europe is taking place on November 20th and 21st in Brussels.

Energy Poverty Days

are organized by an initiative called Social Innovation to Tackle Energy Poverty. This initiative is co-created by the Schneider Electric Foundation and Ashoka under the aegis of Fondation de France and accompanied by a local partner Enel Romania.

This event is the final stage of the Social Innovation's program to support innovative ideas and mature projects working in the field of energy poverty in five European countries - Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. 15 projects were selected to join 5 months acceleration program helping them improve the strategy and amplify their positive impact on society and on the environment. This program includes:

The Energy Poverty Days will be a two day conference. Day one is dedicated to a discussion of cross-sectoral perspectives on tackling energy poverty. This will be an interactive session introducing several examples of social innovation and strengthening the network among participants of the project, policymakers, researchers and social entrepreneurs attending the conference. The second day is reserved for finalists' presentations of smart solutions in their project in front of international jury who will choose the winning project for each of the five country. Most successful and winning projects will be awarded with additional grant for further development. You can find more details on the agenda here.

Habitat for Humanity International will not miss this event. Will you?

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

People of Skopje can give a sigh of relief that the winter is over. This city, being located in between the mountain ranges, becomes deadly valley during the wintertime. A blanket of smog settles over the valley because of the temperature inversions. Fresh air basically has no chance and neither do people living there. The concentration of poisonous particles named PM 2.5 in the air spikes to record heights and these small particles penetrate the respiratory system and bloodstream, and have been linked to premature deaths and various diseases.

"By breathing this air, we are slowly dying"

Tomislav Maksimovski, a Skopje resident

The fight against pollution in Skopje is hard given the fact that people actually have no other choice than to pollute the air during the winter. Because of the poor insulation of the pre-1990s Yugoslav-era buildings and the high costs of heating, people opt to use cheaper but non-eco friendly residential heating; burning wood or even plastic. Poverty in the region does not allow the inhabitants to afford the reconstruction of the residential buildings to ensure a better resistance during the winter months. Adding the passivity of the government to tackle the air pollution, people are becoming more and more frustrated. In regards to the gravity of the issue, a short movie called  Winter, Leave  was made by Contrast - Al Jazeera’s Immersive Storytelling Studio, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity. Have a look!


Find the full movie also here.

Find more information about the air pollution in Skopje here.

Written by Anna Bajomi,Programma Housing of the Compagnia San Paolo

At the end of November the Energy Poverty Handbook was published in Brussels. The aim of the Handbook is to offer a complex overview and up-to date knowledge for those who are concerned about the levels of energy poverty in Europe and want to contribute with their own capacities to eliminate it. Policy makers, NGOs, business and social professionals, academics and students can all use the handbook throughout their work.

 

The eight articles of the Handbook, provided by organisations and academic researchers active in the fields of energy poverty, describe the various aspects of energy poverty. The book starts with a description of social and health impacts of energy poverty, which is followed by a detailed overview about definitions of energy poverty and the state of the European housing stock. Then an article offers us a good understanding of macro-regional differences regarding levels and causes of energy poverty.

The second part of the handbook focuses on practices: articles describe the actual regulations aiming to protect vulnerable consumers, the available funding sources and good practices tackling energy poverty. The article about good practices would like to offer inspiration for policy makers and practitioners to develop and deliver their own projects after reading through case studies. The listed case-studies cover projects such as large-scale physical interventions, energy advice and advocacy services and finally grass-roots but still complex initiatives. Among the case studies the Residential Energy Efficiency for Low Income Households (REELIH) project of Habitat for Humanity  and USAID is presented as a good example for international interventions in building energy efficiency in countries where policy support and advocacy is highly needed to move forward the issues of energy efficiency.

The Energy Poverty Handbook initiated and edited by the office of Tamás Meszerics, Member of the European Parliament (The Greens/EFA group).

The contents of the book are the following:

You can read the full publication here.

 anna-bajomi  

Anna Zsófia Bajomi holds a Masters in Social Policy from the Eötvös Lóránd University of Budapest in Hungary. She has worked at the Municipality of Budapest on the Social Urban Rehabilitation Thematic Development Programme for local stakeholders, and at the office of Tamás Meszerics at the European Parliament. Her field of research is housing and energy poverty especially energy poor tenants, grass root initiatives and good practices tackling housing and energy poverty. Currently she is working on Social Rental Agencies, and studies other innovative housing solutions at the Programma Housing of the Compagnia San Paolo in Turin, Italy, in the frame of the Erasmus For Young Entrepreneurs Program of the European Commission.

Written by Gyorgy Sumeghy, Advocacy Manager, Habitat for Humanity Europe, Middle East and Africa

The title of this new website captures very nicely that Habitat for Humanity International’s main focus when it comes to the energy efficiency of residential buildings are: the people. All our efforts are focusing on combatting energy poverty so that families should get  warmer homes and save money on their heating bills as a result of the retrofitting of their buildings.

We started to address residential energy efficiency more than 5 years ago with the support of USAID. We have run projects in Macedonia, Armenia and Bosnia and Hercegovina. We learned a lot from these projects and we also worked with researchers to better understand the context of residential energy efficiency in Central and Eastern Europe. We also engaged with many stakeholders both at the national level and at the European level and learned that our experience is worth sharing. That’s why we endeavored to develop a knowledge platform and launched this website to foster further knowledge sharing and policy dialogue among all the relevant actors in residential energy efficiency.

The current English version of this website will be soon complemented with an Armenian and Bosnian subpage targeting home-owner associations offering practical information how to start the retrofitting of their own buildings.

Because we all want to get warm homes!

György Sümeghy received his MA in English and Hungarian Literature in 1995 in Budapest. He spent ten years in public education and later at a private business college. Based on his management experience in education and volunteerism and interest in social development he joined Habitat for Humanity Hungary as National Director in 2005. Under his leadership, Habitat for Humanity Hungary has become an advocacy led organization where field projects support strong awareness raising and advocacy initiatives to change housing policies in the country. Gyorgy joined HFHI EMEA in 2013 to lead regional advocacy initiatives and support national advocacy programs in the EMEA region. He represents HFHI in Brussels and all over Europe at regional conferences and meetings.

 

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