SEATTLE, Washington — Energy poverty—a problem outlined by the lack of access to safe, efficient energy sources in order to provide heat to households and maintain energy services—is currently emerging as a crisis in Europe. Energy poverty is a rising issue with the spread of digital technologies and the gap between those who have access to the necessary energy and those who do not. In Europe, this problem is affecting populations disproportionately due to varying approaches by each country and its institutions. In Belgium, Spain and the U.K., energy poverty is being addressed through segmentation from several systems, the government and universities being two examples. However, in Finland and Italy, solutions are being sought through data analysis and partnership with similar institutions. Here are five facts about the energy poverty crisis in Europe.
Five facts about the energy poverty crisis in Europe
Many people are vulnerable: The European Union has a population of 446 million people, and of those, 11% of the population are vulnerable to and affected by energy poverty. This means that 54 million European are facing health crises due to high prices of energy, causing poorly maintained and unhealthy housing that leads to significant health problems. The EU has yet to prioritize energy poverty as a crisis and there is a wide range of vulnerable residents living with the risk of this growing problem.
There are many unknowns: The main reason energy poverty has not been addressed yet is because the pre-existing indicators are still widely unknown, along with the focus on vulnerable populations rather than specific household solutions. Energy poverty is a fairly new emergency, and the EU is working to address it. However, many factors about the emergence and prevalence of this issue are still unknown and unexplored.
Four areas of focus: There are four main areas of focus for addressing energy poverty in Europe. Digital technology projects have been set in motion to reduce energy consumption for at-risk populations living mostly in social housing complexes in order to lower energy prices. Another solution is behavioral change projects that attempt to advise changes through at-home visits with members of energy-poor communities. Financing projects are another system of solutions that focus on breaking down legal and financial barriers specifically limiting access to affordable energy. Lastly, the sharing of best practices projects aims to address social barriers in terms of the relationship between energy prices and rent prices.
Assist 2gether: Assist 2gether is a project working to alleviate energy poverty in Europe and focuses specifically on uniting solutions in order to benefit vulnerable populations across the EU. They work with different bodies to promote access to affordable and efficient energy. This 36-month market activation and policy organization method takes an economic perspective in order to offer solutions. Suggestions include at-risk populations in energy markets while simultaneously implementing behavioral changes in hopes to reduce the risks associated with energy poverty.
Social innovation: Social innovation is one of the newest tools used to raise awareness of energy poverty and work with vulnerable communities to create affordable solutions and long-term behavioral changes within the household. The mission of social innovation is to envision a combination of different methods to address all aspects of energy poverty with goals of long-term maintenance and sustainability.
While 11% of the European population is living in or facing energy poverty, there are a variety of projects in place to address and reduce this crisis. Due to the emergence of this issue and the unknown sources and indicators of how to measure this issue, the EU has been faced with the difficulty of working on a member state and national level to create permanent change.
– Caroline Pierce