Energy poverty, whose negative impact on people’s quality of life is increasingly recognised, refers to individuals and households lacking access to affordable and reliable energy services.
Since 2022, local governments have been leading the pack, spearheading the response to the energy crisis. Through locally established one-stop shops, cities are disseminating information, raising awareness and encouraging residents to embark on building renovation plans while avoiding the time-consuming renovation process of bureaucracy and hidden costs.
Long-term solutions to mitigate the consequences of energy poverty include boosting energy-efficient buildings, ensuring residents’ participation in renovation projects and switching to more sustainable energy systems. Public administrations aligned with the principles of a fair green transition can contribute to the renovation of buildings to minimise the impact on the most vulnerable groups while reaching climate targets.
Eurocities’ paper on energy poverty
Working on a smooth energy transition is among the top challenges for mayors in 2023, according to the 2023 Eurocities Pulse Mayors Survey. Given the importance of the matter at European, national and local levels, Eurocities recently launched the “Measures to tackle energy poverty in cities” paper.
The document showcases cities’ best practices, highlighting how local governments address energy poverty and help to alleviate its consequences. A key element that emerges across EU cities is the creation of one-stop-shops to encourage households’ active participation.
One-stop shops can speed up the renovation process through various services, including: facilitating energy savings by installing small energy-saving products, executing small insulation works, offering practical guidance to residents, providing financial and technical assistance to homeowners in the renovation process. Members of the European Parliament are currently discussing a proposal that, if approved, would encourage the creation of one-shop shops in the EU.
In addition, one-stop shops can positively affect the job market – this is because municipalities offer vocational trainings for job seekers and civil servants willing to become installation specialists or energy coaches.
Who does not want an energy efficiency advisor?
In Barcelona, a team of 40 energy advisors distributed at eleven points across the city follows the principles of the Energy Advisory Points (EAP), whose focus is to guarantee energy rights, improve energy efficiency and empower citizens. More than 1,000 people a month receive this type of assistance and advice.
The EAP promotes employability among the most vulnerable. Every eight months, twenty people who face challenges accessing the labour market are hired as part of the EAP project and integrated into the team. So far, 80 individuals have been trained to work as professional energy advisors.
Amsterdam developed a similar programme called “Weesp Sustainable”. The scheme offers installation assistance in collaboration with the FIXbrigade, a team that visits to residents’ homes to offer information on energy savings.
In 2022, more than 400 households in Amsterdam benefitted from the execution of small insulation works. In 2022, the Dutch city’s households counselling !LIVE initiative carried out over 4,250 home visits to deliver free tailor-made energy advice.
Examples from the renovation revolution
In Ghent, where housing renovation advice requests have quadrupled, De Energiecentrale (The Energy Hub) offers a comprehensive service to assist households with their energy savings. The municipality deploys a team of coaches to deliver tailored renovation advice, to connect homeowners with reliable contractors and help with paperwork.
In Vienna, the EU-funded RenoBooster scheme helps private owners and property management companies to access information on housing renovation and refurbishment; at the same time, it offers recommendations on reliable contractors and providers of retrofitting services through an online “Quality Platform”.
At the end of last year, Milan launched the “Sportello Aiuto Energia” (Energy Help Desk) pilot project in collaboration with the social services and welfare department. Among others, the initiative provides assistance to understand energy bills and advice on the use of household appliances and utility contracts.
The Riga Energy Agency provides energy counselling information in the Latvian capital. In Munich, a similar service for low-income earners relies on counsellors who analyse household consumption patterns and give out tariff advice to families and individuals alike.
The EU Parliament counts on cities
The EU’s Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) revision aims to renovate the building stock by introducing minimum energy performance standards. The directive mentions cities as critical actors in contributing to the renovation of buildings and developers of one-stop shops.
“Local actors such as municipal authorities, energy agencies and renewable and citizen energy communities should be recognised as central to delivering national renovation needs,” reads the position of the European Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) on the energy performance of buildings.
The proposal calls on EU member states to empower regional and local authorities to identify districts where to roll out integrated renovation programmes, and to create a one-stop shop every 45,000 inhabitants.
A key element to the successful implementation of the EPBD will be to offer financial support to local initiatives such as citizen-led renovation programmes at neighbourhood and municipal level. The proposal recognises how such plans foster people’s engagement in the energy transition, preserve social patterns, have an economy of scale effect and provide solutions fit for the local context and needs.