[06.02.23] What is needed for a municipal approach 2.0 against energy poverty?
Meeting Energy poverty tackled!? of January 19, 2023
Rising energy prices make it difficult to stay in control over the energy bill. Especially for people in a poorly insulated home, with a high energy bill and/or a lower income. Municipalities have recently tried in all kinds of ways to help people who struggle with paying their energy bills. In the context of the Horizon 2020 projects EnergyMeasures and ENPOR, a meeting focused on a municipal approaches to decrease energy poverty was organized. The purpose of the meeting was to formulate recommendations for a municipal approach 2.0. About 80 participants worked on a set of recommendations in 10 parallel sessions.
Diversity in current approaches
In anticipation of the parallel sessions, TNO gave an overview of research into the effectiveness of tackling energy poverty and research in the near future. The parallel sessions included approaches with Energiebox in various municipalities, energy vouchers in Zeist, participatory action research in Soest, activities in the Eindhoven metropolitan area, approaches aimed at insulating one’s own home in Deventer, actions by property owners to work together with tenants, and approaching people through the food bank in Utrecht. Lessons from debt counseling and behavioral psychology were included. Students were viewed as a separate target group and ways in which energy cooperatives can tackle energy poverty were also discussed.
What struck us is that a lot is happening and there is a lot of experience when it comes to supporting energy-poor households, and that things are different in each municipality. On the one hand, municipalities would be helped by a more standardized approach in which they can learn from each other and that can be stacked; this also makes it fairer for residents across municipalities. And on the other hand, customization is necessary. In the case of customization, think of approaches aimed at specific focus groups such as students, tenants with block heating and private landlords.
In any case, the approaches must be simple and it is wise to repeat the message and bring it to the attention of the target groups in various ways. The “via-via” method is important in reaching vulnerable target groups that need help the most. The municipality should invest in the informal network and maintain sustainable relationships with inhabitants; this is crucial in these approaches. Trust is the keyword. Energy cooperatives (in which the neighbor is trusted) also provide a route to helping people; and in addition, energy cooperatives can use the proceeds of their projects to alleviate energy poverty.
It is also important to recognize that people with energy poverty may have a different living environment. What you have to take into account is chronic stress and therefore a more limited mental space and distrust towards authorities. In order to reach and retain financially vulnerable residents, you must adopt an equal and vulnerable position as a discussion partner. Stress-sensitive working is an interesting way of working. A local organization and infrastructure with the right expertise is highly desirable and necessary for proper guidance and help for residents in reducing their energy bills.
Vision on the long-term
The key question in all of this is how the approach to decrease energy poverty will take structural shape after the end of various temporary financial schemes (RREW). Long-term vision and policy are needed at national and local level. Financial arrangements for municipalities, housing associations, private property owners and energy cooperatives should be guaranteed in the long-term and thus offer planning certainty, because the problem of energy poverty will unfortunately not be solved tomorrow.
With this meeting we hope to contribute to the energy poverty approach 2.0. The recommendations are included in the ENPOR project as policy recommendations to the national government and the European Commission.
Want to know more or share ideas?
The presentations and reports of the meeting can be found on the webpage. Do you want to know more about the ENPOR in The Netherlands? Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.