With the number of EU households unable to heat their homes likely to grow, and annual energy inflation hitting over 40%, the EESC in a recent opinion has called on the EU and the Member States to urgently implement measures to prevent and tackle energy poverty.
The EESC is urging the European Union and Member States to make equal access to energy, and security of energy supply at an affordable cost, their absolute priority.
In an opinion on Tackling energy poverty and the EU's resilience, adopted at its plenary session in September, the EESC acknowledged the importance given to energy in the European Commission's recent initiatives, such as the "Fit for 55" package, the implementation of the European Green Deal and the Renovation Wave. However, the Committee warned that, without swift implementation, strong commitments and concrete measures by Member States, these initiatives would not be sufficient to address the current crisis.
"There should be a common approach to understanding and addressing energy poverty at EU level," said Ioannis Vardakastanis, rapporteur for the opinion. "And this approach may lead to a common definition. At the same time, we should be leaving it to each Member State to find tailor-made solutions. They must ensure that the most vulnerable are not left without support."
National measures to mitigate the negative effects of rising prices on the most vulnerable should include direct financial support and social policies, or incentives and support to decrease energy consumption, depending on specific national and local circumstances.
To ensure a truly all-encompassing approach, the EESC called for the establishment of a broad and ambitious political coalition for addressing energy poverty whose actions would be further developed in an EU strategy. Its goal would be to reduce energy poverty to a minimum level by 2030 and eliminate it altogether in the long term.
Alongside the EU institutions, the coalition would involve civil society organisations, including those representing the populations most at risk of energy poverty. Local and municipal authorities should also be involved.
The EESC also stressed the importance of investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency as well as in the large-scale renovation of buildings. Member States, working with local and regional authorities, should prioritise deep renovation that would lead to over 60% energy savings. For this to be feasible, a large amount of private investment is clearly needed. (ll)