Energy poverty

Alleviating energy poverty

In the 2030 framework of the Covenant of Mayors (CoM) in Europe, alongside with taking action on mitigating climate change and adapting to its unavoidable effects, signatories commit to providing access to secure, sustainable and affordable energy for all. In the European context this means taking action to alleviate energy poverty. By alleviating energy poverty, Covenant signatories can enhance the quality of life of their citizens and create a more just and inclusive society.

What is energy poverty?

Energy poverty can be defined as:

an inability to realise essential capabilities as a direct or indirect result of insufficient access to affordable, reliable and safe energy services, and taking into account available reasonable alternative means of realising these capabilities.

R.Day , G.Walker, N.Simcock, Conceptualising energy use and energy poverty using a capabilities framework, Energy Policy 93 (2016)

In practical terms this means that vulnerable citizens either do not have access to energy services or making use of these energy services undermines their possibility to access other basic services. Being affected by energy poverty can have severe implications on the health, wellbeing, social inclusion and quality of life. Energy poor households experience inadequate levels of some essential energy services, e.g. lighting, heating/cooling, use of appliances, transport and many others. For this reason, energy poverty has to be taken into account in many policy areas - including social, economic and, of course, climate and environment policies.

The energy poverty challenge in Europe 

Energy poverty is a complex issue and both estimating the current level of energy poverty in European municipalities and the impacts on citizens’ life are not easy tasks. It is estimated that 1 out of 10 citizens is affected by energy poverty. Figures show that in Europe:

57 million people cannot keep their homes warm during winter [1]

104 million people cannot keep their homes comfortable during summer [1]

52 million people face delays in paying their energy bills [1]

10 million people need to walk more than 30 minutes to access to public transport facilities [2]

[1] https://www.energypoverty.eu/  [2] http://www.docutren.com/pdf/boletin/[IIIA%201440].pdf

Awareness of energy poverty is rising in Europe and has been identified as a policy priority by a number of EU institutions, most notably in the European Commission’s 'Clean Energy for All Europeans' legislative package. As part of the European Commission’s effort to address energy poverty across EU countries the EU Energy Poverty Observatory (EPOV) was created in 2018. The EPOV exists to improve the measuring, monitoring and sharing of knowledge and best practice on energy poverty. More info about EPOV can be found here.

The European Covenant of Mayors and the EPOV are teaming up to address energy poverty. These two initiatives, funded by the European Commission, will support local and regional authorities across Europe in alleviating energy poverty by sharing knowledge and resources to build local capacities.

For more information, check out our Leaflet on Energy Poverty