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5th Feb 2023

Member states still lack definition of 'energy poverty'

  • Millions of Europeans are estimated to suffer form 'energy poverty' - but there is no agreed legal definition (Photo: EUobserver)

Most EU member states lack a legal definition of the term 'energy poverty', according to an annex to the European Commission's State of the Energy Union report, published on Friday (24 November).

"Energy-poor households should be better identified and the evolution of energy poverty monitored," the Commission said.

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"Energy poverty should be addressed more effectively at the member state level," it added.

The report comes a year after the European Commission announced that it wanted to help tackle energy poverty.

In November 2016, Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic – in charge of the Energy Union project – said that "without electricity, you cannot exist".

Speaking to journalists then, he acknowledged that "there is not a common definition of energy poverty".

"The situation is different from country to country," Sefcovic had said.

But according to Friday's document, "most member states do not define energy poverty in their national legislation".

The Commission said that it will set up a European Energy Poverty Observatory by the end of the year.

The observatory will "publish statistics and reports on an interactive web portal".

It is unclear how the Commission will publish statistics on energy poverty without national definitions of energy poverty, let alone a common EU-wide agreement on the concept.

In the previous edition of the State of the Energy Union, published in February 2017, the Commission said that because "there is no single agreed definition at EU level, it is currently not possible to produce an appropriate single indicator".

There are however some estimates. The Commission said on Friday that energy poverty "affects close to 50 million people" in the EU.

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.

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