Thursday

17th Jan 2019

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

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join 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.

Feature

Missing signature gaffe for Azerbaijan gas pipeline

A joint declaration on the Southern Gas Corridor project, which should deliver Azerbaijani gas to Europe by 2020, will remain secret - because the Turkish energy minister left before signing.

News in Brief

  1. British PM scrapes through no confidence vote
  2. Spanish PM calls for EU gender equality strategy
  3. Farage says bigger Brexit majority if second referendum
  4. Macron starts 'grand debate' tour after yellow vests protests
  5. Barnier: up to London to take Brexit forward
  6. Stimulus still needed, ECB's Draghi says in final report
  7. May's Brexit deal defeated by 230 votes
  8. German economy hit by global economic turbulence

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. MEPs allow Draghi's membership of secretive bank group
  2. EU parliament backs Morocco deal despite row
  3. Barnier open to 'future relations' talks if UK red lines shift
  4. German spies to monitor far-right AfD party
  5. On Morocco, will the EU ignore its own court?
  6. UK parliament rejects May's Brexit deal in historic defeat
  7. EU suggests majority vote on digital tax by 2025
  8. MEPs redouble appeal on sexual harassment

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  2. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  3. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  5. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  6. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  8. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  10. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us