1 year ago




FOREWORD tamás meszerics member of the european parliament “Having heard all of this you may choose to look the other way but you can never again say that you did not know.” William Wilberforce “Abolition Speech” 12th of May, 1789 House of Commons Energy poverty is a serious concern in our societies which receives more and more attention these days. We slowly realised that energy is no longer a luxury service that provides a higher standard of living but an essential commodity the absence of which might exclude people from participating in the life of a society. During the Great Recession of 2008 and its aftermath we also realised that we do not have sufficient protection mechanisms in our society to maintain a minimum necessary energy supply for all citizens during economic hardships. As Europeans we tend to think about ourselves as ones who care for their fellow citizens and support the less fortunate members of society. This is what we learn and nurture in our hearts and minds as humanists of various creeds. Yet we are too slow to support those families who live in cold and damp dwellings risking their health through no choice of their own. We fail to assist those who slide into an irresolvable debt cycle just because energy prices are too high in relation to their income. Only when the most vulnerable people are permanently lifted out of their desperate circumstances can we honestly say that we live in a society of which we can be proud. My goal and hope with this handbook is to reach out to concerned citizens and enable them to stand up for their community. I would be delighted to see energy poverty expert working groups being formed to provide better research, community advisory groups starting new energy advocacy projects, lobby groups launching energy poverty campaigns. I would be more than happy to see these groups connecting to each other sharing experiences and successes as they see the progress of their neighbourhoods. I would like to see my fellow politicians taking the initiative all across the EU to eliminate energy poverty from our Union once and for all. I would like to thank the authors and the editors for their hard work on this project. Their dedication to the subject in the academic and non-governmental sector was the real engine of this project. This strong commit- 17

ment gives me the hope that Europe can succeed in the challenge of abolishing energy poverty in the coming decade. To reach this goal we need more policy makers, more academics and advisors on board to support smart strategies tackling both the poverty and the energy concerns of our century at the same time. I strongly believe that this handbook will convince you that eliminating energy poverty is not only desirable but also possible. OVERVIEW katalin csiba You are holding a handbook about energy poverty or fuel poverty, as it’s called in the UK, in your hand. This handbook was inspired by the struggle we faced during our policy work in the European Parliament to push energy poverty higher up on the political agenda. During our work we realised that energy poverty is falling between at least two major policy fields therefore finding a comprehensive as well as up to date descriptive work on the subject is almost impossible. We understood that this lack of available information often might be the greatest obstacle to action or gathering political will. It is our aim to serve policy makers and their staff to find new ways of tackling this complex issue. We also address this handbook to non-governmental actors, activists, journalists, business professionals, academics, students in social sciences and any concerned individual who feel the need to face this problem and need the tools to begin their work. Energy poverty is a complex phenomenon. Healthcare experts and politicians often understand the effect and the social costs of inadequate housing but they have no political tool to tackle the causes of the situation. Energy experts and politicians often see the problem of arrears on utility bills and the struggle of vulnerable consumers but they have limited power to influence household income. Social policy makers likewise see the gap between energy prices, income and quality of housing and they also realise that the usual measures might not be sufficient anymore. It is also a fact that energy poverty appears at all levels of our political system. Households in small villages of all Member States are just as affected as households in London or Paris, while most of the funding comes from the European budget. We invited some of the best-known scholars and organisations to guide us through this field. Each article sets out to present one aspect of energy poverty in a descriptive and easily digestible fashion. At the end of each paper the reader will find an excessive and recent bibliography for further research. The articles express the latest findings of the authors and they also collect their recommendations based on their experience and knowledge. The handbook begins with an introduction of the social consequences of energy poverty on the life of a household and its members. It is followed by an article explaining the health implications of cold and damp dwellings. The third paper explores the quality of European housing stock in general while the fourth piece analyses the macro-regional differences of energy poverty and its causes. The second part of the handbook focuses on the existing policies and regulations by explaining the importance of an adequate legal definition, comparing the national regulations protecting vulnerable consumers and energy poor households. Finally we explore the financial resources that are available and a list of best practices across Europe already operating and sufficiently helping people in energy poverty. We hope you will find this handbook informative and useful and inspiring at the same time. 18 19

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