On Monday December 9th, FEANTSA and the Fondation Abbé Pierre launched their joint thematic report on energy poverty in the European Parliament. The event was co-organised with the Right to Energy Coalition.
Mathias Maucher from the European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN) moderated the first panel and set the tone for the discussion by highlighting the fact that one in ten European households are unable to properly heat their homes in winter, and that among vulnerable households this figure is one in five. There remains, in short, plenty of work to be done.
Clotilde Clark-Foulquier from FEANTSA and Orane Lamas from Fondation Abbé Pierre provided an overview of the report, which was followed by a Q&A. Ms. Lamas insisted on the importance of not shying away from ambitious renovation projects: it is true that they are large investments, but long-term benefits such as employment opportunities and improved health and living conditions should not be understated.
The two MEPs on the panel were then invited to comment on the report. Cornelia Ernst MEP (GUE/NGL) argued that the EU needs a new philosophy for its regional and structural funds to meet the important twin challenges of climate change and social justice. Mounir Satouri MEP (Greens/EFA) held that the climate challenge should be viewed as a social and economic opportunity for improving living conditions and creating employment, and as an opportunity to revive a collective belief in the European project. At the local level, Satouri insisted on the importance of improving public tools to ensure that local entities can properly support individual households who may not always know what can be done about their energy situation.
The report overview was followed by individual interventions from the two MEPs on the panel:
Ms. Ernst MEP provided a quick overview of the energy situation in her home country, Germany. Electricity costs have been on the rise and are expected to rise another 2-5% in 2020. Although a potential solution for the future is an increased focus on self-consumption, Ms. Ernst insisted that producing your own electricity should not be an alternative only for the middle class, and further pointed out that in Germany, many companies are exempt from paying the renewable energy levy despite their high energy consumption, which should change. She also argued for a ban on disconnection on the premise that energy is a basic human right. What she felt was the most important though, is that in a context of rising living costs and stagnant wages, public attitudes towards renewable are sometimes loaded with skepticism, which makes it all the more important for the energy transition to be just and inclusive. It must be clear to all that they too stand to benefit.
For Mr Satouri MEP, it is the right to adequate housing and the right to the climate that are central to this question. He said it is shameful that in the 21st century there are households around Europe that are forced to make a choice between eating or heating their home. The most vulnerable households are often at a double disadvantage as they are most affected by prices but are also more like to use more energy if they live in non-efficient buildings. Social inequality and climate change are twin challenges and must be dealt with simultaneously, not one after the other.
In their closing comments, Ms Lamas underlined the importance of local and public services that are able to go beyond financial support and actively detect and identify households that are facing energy poverty. Ms Clark-Foulquier welcomed the Von der Leyen Commission's Green Deal but warned that in light of recent statements on leveraging the private sector, we must not forget the essential role of public services to protect the most vulnerable even in the absence of any returns on investment.
Yes to the Green Deal, but at what price?
The full report can be downloaded in English and French