A new report has highlighted opportunities for European policy makers to combine environmental and social benefits when they agree Europe’s energy policy priorities up until 2030. The report notes how European policy makers must respond to concerns about affordability by putting low-income households at the heart of Europe’s energy future without sacrificing environmental imperatives. The report also notes the risk that without deliberate interventions poorer households will continue to benefit least from Europe’s energy policies and the EU must aim to uphold the ‘polluter pays’ principle.
Jean Lambert MEP, a Green Party Member of the European Parliament comments:
“Our leaky homes make us ill and make every energy bill frightening for so many people. This means we use far more energy than we need to. Yet, the EU Commission has not proposed setting an ambitious binding target on energy saving. The report calls for Europe’s leader to take charge and set a binding 40% target for energy saving for 2030 as well as introducing targeted steps to protect low-income energy consumers in the future. The report also highlights that opportunities to secure these outcomes are immediate and pursuing a more deliberate and coordinated approach offers long-lasting benefits. However, there are significant and growing costs to inaction and beyond positive rhetoric, the EU Commission, EU Parliament and Council Leaders must take action now to address a growing ‘Energy Divide’”.
The report’s author, Peter Smith, from charity National Energy Action (NEA) comments:
“The report investigates the EU’s current energy legislative framework and explores how it can be improved for low-income consumers. We also explore why energy policies in general can exacerbate hardship. It is argued that the current approach to energy policy across Europe contributes to an ‘energy divide,’ where poorer households may benefit least from energy policies whilst paying a higher share of the costs, despite emitting the least carbon emissions. For example, Member States provide significant tax and levy exemptions for some of the most energy intensive industries which substantially reduce the costs heavy polluters have to pay. This leaves the poorest paying proportionately more for these polices. This practice is growing and the EU must aim to uphold the ‘polluter pays’ principle and check a recent trend for policies to be paid disproportionately by domestic consumers, including the most vulnerable”.
Andrew Cooper, the Green Party’s national Spokesperson on the Environment, commented:
“We believe we can reduce the ‘energy divide’ that exists within many Member States and help address the social consequences of higher energy bills as Europe continues its sustainable long-term energy transition. Through an enhanced legislative framework, we can inspire a step change in local delivery and capture all the benefits of this enhanced approach. The report provides a legislative blueprint that could, if acted upon, put low-income households at the heart of Europe’s energy future”.
The new report follows recent findings from organisations like the International Energy Agency (IEA) which have highlighted that improving energy efficiency measures could, in a high energy efficiency scenario, save the European Union’s economy as much as EUR 190 billion, annually as well as dramatically enhancing health and well-being, particularly among vulnerable groups such as children, the elderly and those with pre-existing illnesses. This position has also been reinforced by research by the Fraunhofer Institute showing that that the EU has a 41% cost-effective end-use energy savings potential for 2030 and if achieved this could lower net energy costs for households and industry by over €239 billion annually by 2030.
1. The Green Group in the European Parliament commissioned the fuel poverty charity, National Energy Action (NEA), in an impartial capacity to investigate how to put low-income households at the heart of Europe’s energy future. It is hoped that the outputs of this work will support bold and new European wide commitments.
2. The report will be made available at the following location at 9.30 Friday 24th October 2014: http://www.nea.org.uk/policy-and-research/publications/2014.
3. Jean Lambert MEP has been a Green Party Member of the European Parliament since 1999. She was re-elected in 2009 and 2014. For more information visit: http://www.jeanlambertmep.org.uk/
4. The report’s recommendations are:
– The EU must introduce a 40% target for energy saving by 2030.
– There is a need to secure a common understanding of ‘energy poverty’ at an EU level.
– Member States should increase the promotion and accessibility of programmes to help low-income households replace less efficient appliances.
– DG Energy (ENER) must actively review the specific attempts made by Member States to reduce the extent and depth of energy poverty within National Energy Efficiency Actions Plans.
– Existing EU legislative safeguards are welcome but are failing to provide adequate support for low-income households. The European Parliament must insist that 50% of the energy efficiency activity (or greater) must be targeted at these groups if the Member State chooses to fund their energy efficiency obligation policies through a levy which is paid for by domestic energy consumers. Member States should also submit a detailed analysis to the Commission illustrating how they have investigated alternative revenues, particularly illustrating how they have considered the use of revenues from auctioning Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) permits or additional carbon taxes
– There is significant opportunity to supplement adjustments to the current legislative framework with a call for binding EU-wide minimum energy efficiency standards for low-income households alongside the emerging 2030 energy targets.
– A new EU fund should be established to finance low-cost energy efficiency measures within low-income households and seek to be a major EU-wide job stimulus, supporting low-skilled workers and fostering collaborative action between DG Energy, DG Health and Consumers and the DG Directorate General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion.
– The EU must aim to uphold the ‘polluter pays’ principle within Member States and seek to check a recent trend for ameliorative policies for heavy industry to be paid for at the expense of domestic consumers, including the most vulnerable.