DOES ENERGY POVERTY MEAN THE SAME ALL AROUND EUROPE?
Is there a formal definition of energy poverty in your country? How are vulnerable consumers identified in each region?
Energy poverty is a problem growing both in recognition and in prevalence across Europe. Nevertheless, how each Member state approaches the tackling of the matter vary widely and is dependent upon a number of issues.
While the UK and Ireland have a long history of academic research looking at and tackling energy poverty, there are other Member States for whom there is a formal definition for energy poverty and where addressing it is integrated into either their national or regional policy such as Belgium, France and Cyprus. Equally, there are Member States for whom there is no formal definition but for who it is a recognised issue which is being addressed either nationally or -more commonly- at a regional level and often as part of a wider welfare programme, such as Netherlands or Spain.
Interestingly, some of the newer Member States from Central and Eastern Europe acknowledged that whilst energy poverty was still a relatively new concept, it was becoming an increasingly widely recognised issue and one that was starting to be addressed to.
Lastly, there are a number of Member States for whom energy poverty not does appear to be an issue and is certainly not considered as outside of their existing welfare system, this is particularly the case in the Scandinavian countries and Austria. Denmark does acknowledge that, as a problem, it can occur in rural areas where households do not have access to energy efficient heating, and as is true in many cases, those most at risk tend to be elderly. Nevertheless, it does not appear to be driving any policy change.
ASSIST is a 36-months European ‘market activation and policy orientation’ project to tackle fuel poverty and support vulnerable consumers. Its aim is to both actively engage consumers with the energy market, helping them to positively change their behaviour in relation to energy consumption as well as influence the design of policy relating to energy poverty.