European Energy Poverty Observatory aims to tackle EU energy poverty

24 March 2017 3 min. read
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Paying for the energy they need remains a problem for 50 million people across Europe, creating a host of health and productivity related externalities for society. Tackling the issue has become part of wider legislation within the EU. In a bid to identify problem areas and support cross state collaboration to tackle the issue, a consortium of organisations, including Ecorys, have joined forces under the titled the European Energy Poverty Observatory.

Energy poverty, whereby people have difficulty paying their bills or are rationing electricity to make ends, affects around 50 million households across Europe. The consequences on health can be considerable, from being undercooled or too hot to living with damp and mould.

The causes of energy poverty stem from low household incomes and high energy prices – incomes in the UK have stagnated while the costs of energy has increased steadily since the financial crisis. In addition, much of the housing stock across Europe are poorly insulated or continue to use inefficient applications – particularly outdated boilers.

The social costs for high energy prices can be high, studies have linked energy poverty to ill health, including respiratory and cardiac illnesses, and mental health problems – all of which can be exacerbated by living in low temperatures and with stress associated with unaffordable energy bills.

European Energy Poverty Observatory aims to tackle EU energy poverty

As part of wider efforts to combat the phenomenon, the European Commission (EC) included it as a policy priority in the Clean Energy package last year. The rationale for the move, among others, relates to the wider social benefits of energy security, as governments are not left footing the bill of high energy price health externalities on society, more efficient energy use reduces air pollution and low income households have better comfort and wellbeing, as well as more financial means to deal with other problems and be more economically active.

To support people across Europe tackle energy poverty, a consortium of 13 organisations*, from academia to the business sector, have come together to create a ‘specialist “knowledge hub”’ – called the European Energy Poverty Observatory (EEPV). The consortium, which includes sustainability consulting firm Ecofys, is funded by the European Commission, will work together to identify core issues causing energy poverty as well as mechanisms that can be deployed to end the problem. As Harriet Thomson explains, “There’s a growing integration of energy poverty analysis and policy in European Commission activities – so it’s now more important than ever to build a specialist network of stakeholders working on energy poverty in Europe.”

The EEPV will officially launch at the end of this year, focused on leveraging data across Europe and providing it as a friendly and open access resource, as well as creating the conditions for collaboration, including the sharing of best practices, across member states and institutions that are dealing with energy poverty in sometimes vastly different markets and conditions.

Professor Stefan Bouzarovski, who chairs the Observatory’s Steering Committee, says, “The Observatory is closely linked with a range of existing research activities at the University of Manchester, particularly the Collaboratory for Urban Resilience and Energy within the Manchester Urban Institute, as well as Manchester Energy. It builds on the University’s path-breaking scientific and policy engagement with wider European and global challenges around questions of social inequality and environmental sustainability.”

* The University of Manchester, Ecofys, Intrasoft International, The European Policy Centre, National Energy Action, Wuppertal Institute, Asociación de Ciencias Ambientales, Centre for Renewable Energy Sources and Saving, ECODES, Energy Action, The EnAct project, the EU Fuel Poverty Network, and Housing Europe.