Energy prices have risen sharply in Europe in recent months due to a crisis in fossil fuels. Gas prices have increased six-fold in a year and reached historical levels on the European benchmark market.
This price shock has dramatic consequences for millions of Europeans in vulnerable situations, which should lead Member States to act and propose emergency measures, measures to restructure the energy markets and long-term measures to transform the fossil fuel-dependent system. The European Commission has proposed a toolkit for this purpose, along with measures in its new Social Climate Fund Regulation that is being assessed in the European Parliament and Council.
Moreover, all over Europe, energy issues are instrumentalised in the debates and are at the heart of electoral campaigns. This means that Europeans need to be better informed about the energy system and the options available to them, including for the most vulnerable among them.
In this context, it is all the more important to ensure a just transition, to make sure that “nobody is left behind”. In late December 2021, the European Commission has published its recommendation on ensuring a fair transition towards climate neutrality, which partly reflects some of the key messages of this paper.
This paper aims at exploring concrete measures to foster energy production by low-income and middle-income households and identifying the gap in energy education to ensure that all citizens can take part in the energy debates.
We all could be vulnerable to energy poverty one day. Some groups are more vulnerable, including women, marginalised people, migrants, people with disabilities, children, older people, etc. The risk is also influenced by the energy market and location.
The energy transition is above all a collective project, and not only an individual responsibility to change lifestyle and limit personal energy consumption. A just transition must be a local transition that takes the diversity of situations into account.
While energy behaviours and awareness of energy efficiency are often the focus of policies fighting energy poverty, in particular through the renovation of buildings, we lack suitable policies for giving access to renewable energy production to all Europeans, including the most vulnerable households.
In our view, a special focus on energy-poor and vulnerable consumers is justified as:
This paper is largely inspired by the report written by Energy Cities on the theme of just transition in the framework of the energy citizens forum. We would like to thank the European Commission for this opportunity and all the participants in the working group for their participation.