Friday

30th Oct 2020

EU tries to measure 'energy poverty' - without defining it

  • EU commissioner Maros Sefcovic (2nd from right): 'we do not attempt to create a universal definition of energy poverty' (Photo: European Commission)

The European Commission launched a website on Monday (29 January) aimed at providing insights into the issue of energy poverty - but without defining what 'energy poverty' means.

"The launch of the Energy Poverty Observatory marks an important milestone in our struggle for a more just, solidarity, and inclusive Europe," said EU commissioner for Energy Union, Maros Sefcovic in Brussels.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

He went on to say that two out of three EU member states do not define or measure energy poverty, and that the context in which energy poverty occurred varied between countries.

"That is why we do not attempt to create a universal definition of energy poverty. We rather opted for a description of the term," said Sefcovic.

"This will allow us to continue working together, addressing energy poverty across borders and learn from each other's experience – based on a common understanding that we all share," he added.

That description, on the observatory website, reads, "Energy poor households experience inadequate levels of these essential energy services, due to a combination of high energy expenditure, low household incomes, inefficient buildings and appliances, and specific household energy needs."

But this course of action raises questions: if there is no common European definition of energy poverty, then what use is analysing it at an EU level?

Undefined since 2008

The European Parliament has been asking for an EU-wide definition for at least a decade.

On 19 June 2008, MEPs adopted a text calling on the commission "to define the notion of energy poverty".

Almost ten years later, several MEPs repeated that request.

"We have to define once and for all, what energy poverty means across our member states," said British centre-left MEP Theresa Griffin.

"How can you solve a problem if you don't even agree on what is the problem?" added Luxembourgish Greens MEP Claude Turmes.

Bulgaria's deputy energy minister Zhecho Stankov – present at the launch because his country holds the rotating six-month EU presidency – also said a common definition was needed.

But the team behind the Energy Poverty Observatory, presenting their website on Monday after a year of preparation, said that the issue was complex.

"It was not possible also for us to find one single indicator to measure throughout Europe with a 'one size fits all' approach," said Johannes Thema, project coordinator.

"What we decided in the end was opting to cover four indicators that intend to measure some dimensions of energy poverty," he added.

These included how often respondents to surveys have said that in the past year their household had been unable to pay utility bills on time.

This website asked whether it was useful to compare these indicators if there was no common understanding of what energy poverty is.

"It is a very valid question, and one that we asked ourselves," said Anna Colucci, head of unit retail markets at the commission, who chaired one of the presentations on Monday.

She noted that in a recently proposed piece of EU legislation, member states would be required to define what energy poverty meant.

"So far we are in a negotiation process and we will see. But in parallel to that we wanted the observatory to already start working," Colucci said.

The legislative file is being negotiated by representatives of the commission, the parliament, and the national governments.

The commission initially proposed that member states laid down "national objectives with regards to energy poverty, including the number of households in energy poverty".

MEPs added another requirement. They want the commission to "adopt a common methodology for member states to define energy poverty".

EU to tackle 'energy poverty'

The Commission wants to focus on "vulnerable consumers" but concedes that there will be differences in needs across the bloc.

Investigation

EU's claim Energy Union now 'a reality' not based on facts

The Juncker commission this week awarded it self top marks on the Energy Union, declaring it "completed". But a detailed analysis reveals the commission quietly stopped reporting on key indicators that would have shown the actual level of progress.

News in Brief

  1. Polish government rows back on abortion ruling
  2. EU threatens legal action against Poland on rule of law
  3. 'Several dead' after earthquake hits Greece and Turkey
  4. Hungary faces EU court over asylum restrictions
  5. Polish PM urges end to abortion protests to 'protect elderly'
  6. EU to fund cross-border hospital transfers
  7. Some 140 migrants drown on way to Spanish islands
  8. EU central bank preparing new rescue measures

France shuts oldest reactor amid Macron climate pledges

France's oldest nuclear power plant finally closed on Tuesday, one day after president Emmanuel Macron pledged to speed up the country's transition to a greener economy responding to the proposals from the French citizens' convention on climate.

Analysis

Why is EU off track for 2020 energy efficiency target?

Most EU member states are likely to miss the 2020 target on energy efficiency, since they were not legally-binding targets. "Transformative" measures are needed to reduce energy consumption while boosting efficiency, experts say.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersUN Secretary General to meet with Nordic Council on COVID-19
  3. UNESDAWell-designed Deposit Return Schemes can help reach Single-Use Plastics Directive targets
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector
  6. UNESDAReducing packaging waste – a huge opportunity for circularity

Latest News

  1. Nice attack: EU urges world leaders to stop hate speech
  2. Europe is back in (partial) lockdown
  3. Gender equality still 60 years away, warns study
  4. I'm an 'election observer' - but what do we actually do?
  5. Deal in reach on linking EU funds to rule of law
  6. EU Commission's Covid-19 expert offers bleak outlook
  7. Belgium's collaboration with Sudan's secret service: my story
  8. What do ordinary Belarusians want from the EU?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us