[14.10.22] Blog-Italian “White Paper” – an Open Dialogue on Energy Poverty

By Lorenza Daroda, ENEA

ENEA recently participated through the contribution of experts from the National Energy Efficiency Agency, in the drafting of the “WHITE PAPER: Open Dialogue on Energy Poverty”, a text prepared by the Alliance Against Energy Poverty, with the participation of other important stakeholders at national level such as associations, citizen representatives, research bodies, specialists and professionals, downloadable here.

As is well known, energy poverty is a phenomenon that is growing in developed countries. In fact, these are people, individuals or families who find it difficult to pay their bills to guarantee themselves essential services such as the right to warm up, cool down or even to cook. A plague that in the two years of the Covid -19 pandemic, has grown and has left large or single-income families, newly unemployed and retired people in the dark. A phenomenon that with climate change becomes even more dangerous for people’s health, given the great changes in cold and heat. Climate changes that represent a danger to health and a health cost that falls on different nations. This is not a problem for a few, but an environmental, health and social cost for all. In addition to measures, such as subsidy bonuses aimed at alleviating bill costs, governments and Europe are combining more complex strategies, that transform the defeat of the phenomenon into a lever towards the ecological transition.

Portugal has included energy poverty among the assets of its National Recovery and Resilience Plan, considering the environmental costs produced by the energy poor as an element from which to start to reduce its emissions. In fact, the energy poor are those who generally “consume” more, as they tend to live in houses with poor energy efficiency both in terms of infrastructure and appliances. An issue that concerns economic impossibility and a real lack of knowledge of the minimum energy saving rules.

France is approaching the issue by looking a lot at the rental market, thriving in the country, establishing rigid parameters that push the owners of apartments that are private or corporate to make the properties more efficient, under penalty of revocation of the habitability and therefore the possibility of renting them. .

In Spain, the situation is perhaps the most particular due to the strong economic crisis which has also seen an increase in real favelas, illegally attached to electrical systems, in which hundreds of people live with low levels of hygiene and health quality. An issue that the Government has also tackled with the economic commitment of the energy distribution companies themselves, but which must look to a more systematic solution.

In Belgium, and beyond, there are several purchasing groups of energy communities that have built renewable plants with cooperatives that redistribute the energy produced among the same citizens who contributed to the plant.

Italy itself is looking at social or municipal energy communities as a solution capable of guaranteeing energy autonomy and attention to the environmental impact of consumption. Several stakeholders are looking at how to decline the mechanism developed to increase the energy efficiency of national buildings, the so-called 110% bonus, to approach categories otherwise excluded, such as the energy poor, also looking at the third sector, a sector that intervenes in supporting the people in need. Technologies allow us to look at new initiatives that also raise various questions on the timing and methods of intervention of the government machine, with a view to combining social, environmental and economic needs. Opening up to questions also related to taxation, of certain self-consumption realities as well as of the billing itself.

With this spirit of analysis, was elaborated the first issue of the white paper by the Alliance against energy poverty, with the aim of putting into system some of the best practices and needs that we encountered in our first three years of life, with the aim of exposing some aspects of a discussion that is still ongoing, primarily in the “Fit for 55” package proposed in Europe. A dialogue to expose some aspects of an ongoing discussion in an organized way, and which sees various factors and actors of change acting on the whole in which combining social, environmental and economic needs is increasingly strategic to defeat the phenomenon. An example of how it is not simple, and perhaps not even possible, to please everyone, but which has clearly highlighted how the ecological transition goes hand in hand with social equity.