Sunday

5th Feb 2023

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.

Opinion

More money, more problems in EU answer to US green subsidies

Industrial energy-intense sectors, outside Germany and France, will not move to the US. They will go bust, as they cannot compete in a fragmented single market. So to save industry in two member states, we will kill the rest?

Latest News

  1. Greece faces possible court over 'prison-like' EU-funded migration centres
  2. How the centre-right can take on hard-right and win big in 2024
  3. Top EU officials show Ukraine solidarity on risky trip
  4. MEPs launch anonymous drop-box for shady lobbying secrets
  5. Hawkish ECB rate-rise 'puts energy transition at risk'
  6. MEPs push for greater powers for workers' councils
  7. How Pavel won big as new Czech president — and why it matters
  8. French official to take on Islamophobia in EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Party of the European LeftJOB ALERT - Seeking a Communications Manager (FT) for our Brussels office!
  2. European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual & Reproductive Rights (EPF)Launch of the EPF Contraception Policy Atlas Europe 2023. 8th February. Register now.
  3. Europan Patent OfficeHydrogen patents for a clean energy future: A global trend analysis of innovation along hydrogen value chains
  4. Forum EuropeConnecting the World from the Skies calls for global cooperation in NTN rollout
  5. EFBWWCouncil issues disappointing position ignoring the threats posed by asbestos
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  4. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  5. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  6. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us