[03.02.23] Energy Efficiency Retrofitting Should Consider Human Lives and Stories

ENPOR Updates its Report on Energy Poverty in the Private Rented Sector 

Alleviating energy poverty is a key precondition for achieving just transitions towards climate neutrality, and is gaining increasing attention as part of EU-wide and individual member states’ climate ambitions, such as the European Green New Deal.  

The ENPOR Project has updated its overview of academic and grey literature and suggested resultant framework of measures to tackle energy poverty in the Private Rented Sector (PRS). This report establishes the state-of-the-art in knowledge of PRS-specific energy poverty challenges. Since the first overview was published in 2020, the effects of COVID-19 on energy poverty have been better understood, however, this update comes in the midst of the energy crisis, exacerbated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, of which the overall social impacts are unclear. However, what is known, is that we continue to see worsening levels of energy poverty across Europe.  

Since 2020, due to the multiple crises, energy poverty has received significant policy attention at the EU level as evidenced, for example, by the establishment of the European Commission’s Energy Poverty and Vulnerable Consumers Coordination Group and by progress on the development of a Social Climate Fund and the planned obligation of members states’ reporting on their national energy poverty levels.  

The term ‘renoviction’ became much more widespread in public discourses, as did the growing recognition of the socially regressive consequences of energy efficient housing renovations 
in particular. At the same time, there has also been significant progress on the state of the art 
regarding the private rented sector as a whole, in both academic and policy terms. A key lesson learned is that many energy efficiency policies still do not fully account for the profile and needs of vulnerable households in this sector. This means that energy poverty is not only a matter of uneven distribution; it is a wider socio-political injustice, because many energy efficiency policies can reinforce existing social and systematic inequalities. These policies often do not reach those in greatest need, particularly in the less-understood PRS, and thus fail to address the split incentive and the tenant-landlord dilemma. 

While the member states roll out financial support measures to cushion the effects of the energy crisis, experts call for systematic, continuous and well-funded public support policies that address the broader population, not just emergency measures that are only available to particular groups. These measures need to be targeted and custom-made for the private rented sector and must include characteristics designed to address the various realities of energy poor rental households as well as their landlords.  

In this report we summarise the different geographical and temporal contexts of private renting across Europe, with greater representation of literature from Eastern Europe and non-Anglophone countries than in its first iteration. We introduce core energy poverty concepts, new data and indicators, and also consider vulnerable groups in the rented sector, particularly ethnic minorities, young people and students. We then explore pathways for energy poverty alleviation in the PRS and highlight why the representation of different stakeholders, cooperation and the need for considering the specific challenges faced by low-income households is key to find the appropriate solutions. At the core of our proposed approach lies the proposition that energy efficiency retrofitting should be considered as more than a technical exercise. It is a process that intercepts human lives and stories. 

Download the full report here