Getting to the local zero: Eradicating energy poverty at city level

Launch of a new support mechanism by the Covenant of Mayors

Think big, start small, learn fast: This is probably the best way to capture how the local government in Barcelona is tackling the immense and growing energy poverty problem. Driven by the ambitious goal of getting to 0 (yes, zero!) energy poverty by 2030, the city set up a citizen service dedicated to that phenomenon. In face of the urgency, how can we quickly replicate what Barcelona has done in recent years?

Each and every resident of the city can get support and advice in the front office, a one-stop-shop for vulnerable people. As Julia Linares from Barcelona City Council explains, the office is at once a (social, legal, economic) help center, an employment opportunity and the starting point for intense community work to detect and alleviate energy poverty. Created in 2017, there are now 11 of these offices spread over the city. Unfortunately, Barcelona and a few other cities are still exceptions in the European urban landscape.

So, to help further cities prepare the setup of similar support mechanisms, the European Covenant of Mayors just launched its pillar on energy poverty. Besides “mitigation” and “adaptation”, this third pillar should help signatories define targets and measures related to the social negative impacts of rising energy prices, poor housing or even decarbonization as a radical transformation of production and consumption patterns.

The Covenant of Mayors and Energy Poverty Advisory Hub (EPAH) have joined forces and developed a methodology for

1) diagnosing

2) planning, and

3) implementing actions to tackle energy poverty. 

In the meantime, Energy Cities is providing very concrete support to cities through two of its social flagship projects:

Energy poverty is making us sick

Health is an often overlooked dimension of energy poverty. WELLBASED, a research project (Horizon 2020) looks into the physical and psychological distress that affected people suffer from. The six pilot cities Valencia (Spain), Heerlen (Netherlands), Leeds (UK), Edirne (Turkey), Obuda (Hungary) and Jelgava (Latvia) will design, implement and evaluate six pilot programs that particularly aim at improving health, wellbeing and equality for people affected by energy poverty. Based on these experiences, the pilots and their academic and non-profit partners will propose EU-wide replicable solutions to policy-makers and city practitioners.

Business models that are created with and for vulnerable clients

Energy services are seldomly designed with the consumer and rarely for people who struggle to pay their bill. The 6 pilots of the POWER UP project will act as “living labs” as they will explore together with households affected by energy poverty what business models can be both financially and socially viable. Frontline staff will serve as intermediaries for these co-design activities.