In February 2023, the Education Department of the ETUI, in partnership with the French General Confederation of Labour (CGT) and the Institute of the Greek General Confederation of Labour (GSEE), led a training activity at the CGT training centre in the suburbs of Paris called 'Energy poverty in the spotlight'.
Energy poverty is a pressing issue in the EU that can seriously affect the quality of life of its residents. Energy poverty is the inability to access and afford adequate energy services such as warmth, cooling and lighting. In the EU, at least 50 million people lived in energy poverty before Covid-19 (EPSU, 2021), with approximately 25 million households at risk of suffering from its effects. Lower-income families who cannot meet their basic energy needs are the most affected. The causes of energy poverty are multidimensional: low incomes, poor-quality homes, high energy prices, and energy-inefficient appliances.
Despite the complexity of issues behind energy poverty, this phenomenon is not set in stone. Civil society organisations such as consumer associations, alone or in association with trade unions, can play a critical role in reducing energy poverty by raising awareness, empowering communities, providing education and training, conducting research, and advocating for policies and programmes that address the issue:
- Advocacy and awareness-raising: civil society organisations and trade unions can raise awareness about the impacts of energy poverty and advocate for policies and programmes that address it, including increased investment in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and access to affordable energy for low-income households.
- Community engagement and empowerment: civil society organisations and trade unions can work with communities to identify their energy needs and help them develop solutions appropriate to their context, such as developing community-led renewable energy projects or energy-saving initiatives.
- Education and training: civil society organisations and trade unions can provide education and training to individuals and communities on energy efficiency, renewable energy, and energy management, helping them to reduce their energy consumption and costs.
- Research and data collection civil society organisations and trade unions can conduct research and collect data on the impact of energy poverty on individuals and communities, helping to inform policies and programs to address it.
- Partnerships and collaboration: civil society organisations and trade unions can partner with governments, the private sector, and other stakeholders to mobilise resources and expertise to address energy poverty and ensure sustainable and effective solutions.
- Direct assistance and support: civil society organisations can provide direct assistance and support to low-income households, including the provision of energy-efficient appliances, insulation, and other measures that can help reduce energy costs and improve living conditions
Tackling energy poverty in the EU requires a coordinated effort from governments, businesses and communities. By implementing a combination of strategies (e.g. increasing access to energy-efficient housing, or implementing social policies targeted at low-income families, older people, or those living in remote areas), it will be possible to reduce energy poverty and ensure that everyone in Europe has access to affordable and sustainable energy.