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25 Oct 2018

ACA hosted the first EPOV workshop in Spain under the 1st Spanish National Energy Poverty Forum

1st  Spanish National Energy Poverty Forum

Last April 23rd 2018, the Spanish Environmental Sciences Association (Asociación de Ciencias Ambientales, ACA), partner of the Energy Poverty Observatory (EPOV), held in Madrid the 1st Spanish National Energy Poverty Forum, a full-day event that accommodated among its activities a specific workshop dedicated to presenting EPOV to a Spanish audience for a first time.

With this forum, ACA presented the study “Energy Poverty in Spain. Towards a system of indicators and national action strategy” – the fourth of such reports published by ACA since 2012. This study presents up-to-date measurements of the incidence of energy poverty in Spain on the basis of 2016 data –  the last year with available statistical information. Additionally, it puts forward a number of recommendations to mitigate this complex socio-environmental problem.

This study applies for the first time in Spain both the calculation methodologies and indicators proposed by the EPOV for the whole EU. It analyzes the differences in energy vulnerability across spatial, socio-economic, and household demographic gradients. In the same way, it carries out a first review on the effectiveness of the new social electricity tariff approved by the Spanish central government in October 2017, the only nation-wide energy poverty-specific measure in Spain currently helping vulnerable consumers in the payment of their electricity bill.

Following the presentation of the study, a first debate took place involving institutions working on solutions for the energy poverty from different standpoints. This roundtable was the continuation of the previous eight multi-sector professional debates organized by ACA between November 2017 and March 2018. The aim of these multi-stakeholder events is to analyze specific aspects contributing to solve the energy poverty challenge. More than 100 professionals of 63 different sectors and organizations participated in these debates, including NGOs, political parties, consumer organizations, energy companies, non-for-profit social and environmental entities, construction companies, renewable energy companies, public administration (at the municipal i, regional and state level), universities and research centers, press, the national Ombudsman, etc.

Following this roundtable, Ecofys’ Sam Nierop spoke in representation of EPOV explaining the Observatory’s goals, the structure of the EPOV’s website and the need of joining efforts for knowledge sharing in a cooperative and collective manner to maximize the Observatory’s utility and impact.

Nierop’s presentation was followed by a European roundtable, coordinated and moderated by ACA, in which entities  from five different EU countries participated: AISFOR   ACQUIRENTE ÚNICO from Italy, JUST A CHANGE from Portugal, Energy Systems Analysis Lab - Centre for Renewable Energy Sources and Saving from Greece, ECOFYS from the Netherlands & AEIOLUZ and ACA from Spain. Also, European coalitions such as Friends of the Earth were also present. Each of these participants introduced the work of their respective organizations showing different perspectives on the current situation of the energy poverty in their own countries as well as measures and initiatives to reduce its impacts on vulnerable populations.

Salvador Moncayo, representative of AEIOLuz (Spain), introduced his organisation’s views on energy provision from a social perspective that emerged from social activism. They are currently working on educational programs, family care and also coordinates the workshop “Connect Energy” (in Spanish, Conecta Energía), promoted by Las Naves, an organization linked to the Valencia City Council. AEIOLuz advocates for educational programs, coordinated actions and emphasizes the use of technology at the service of people.

Clémence Hutin (Friends of the Earth, Brussels) brought in a new energy poverty coalition from started as joint platform of environmental, social and household entities. They pursue a fair energy transition for all European citizens. Also, Hutin gave a brief overview of global energy poverty trends and of the impacts of the climate change in the Southern and Eastern Europe. In her view, climate change could worsen the incidence of cooling-related summertime energy poverty. Among her proposals, she emphasized the need to enhance building renovations and to improve energy efficiency.

Duarte Fonseca introduced Just a Change Portugal, a social organization emerged as a spin-off organization of in the country’s academic sectror. Nowadays, they count on more than one hundred volunteers and so far they have worked on more than 70 projects involving housing renovation. This organization pointed the necessity to expand the geographical scope of their organization to  to reach out to a larger number of affected households.

Stavroula Papagianni, representative of Renewable Energy Sources and Saving Center (Greece), explained that the political measures in Greece are, at the present day, social energy bills and subsidies depending on family incomes. Also, Papagianni added that there are protocols to re-connect those households that were disconnected from energy supply due to economic debts, to penalize large energy consumers and to improve energy efficiency of the houses. 

Marina Varvesi, representative of Aisfor (Italy), spoke about the work they do working very closely with affected families, for whom they analyze which measures are the most effective ones to fight energy poverty. Aisfor has found out that professionals of previously uninvolved sectors such as social workers should be implicated in addressing energy poverty issues. A second Italian representative, Emiliano Batazzi of Acquirente Único, indicated that they have opened an information office accessible to citizens to help them in the management of state subsidies and support measures.

Finally, Sam Nierop (Ecofys and EPOV) indicated there’s little awareness about energy poverty in countries like the Netherlands and Denmark as they it exclusively a social challenge. This lack of awareness is partially due to the perceived high standards of housing quality and performance in these countries. In Netherlands there are information offices and family support at municipal level. At national scale debates focus on the energy transition and the change of energy systems.

The 1st Spanish National Energy Poverty Forum, concluded with a roundtable with representatives of three main political parties (PSOE, Podemos and Ciudadanos) who discussed their different points of view and strategies to fight against the energy poverty.

The event was attended by more than 100 participants from relevant sectors and - such as  researchers, NGO, , energy companies, state, etc.-, and enjoyed coverage by national media (Antena 3 Televisión, diario El Mundo, eldiario.es, radio Cadena Ser, etc.) and other  social media.

The Forum is an important step forward for the work ACA started in 2009, which has contributed to raise awareness and discussion about energy poverty –  a reality that was previously unknown to the general public in Spain. ACA’s efforts, along with the work of other entities and coalitions like EPOV, is accomplishing the goal of making the energy poverty problem visible today in Spain and in Europe. In Spain, as well as in other countries, we face the challenge of building a coordinated national energy poverty strategy that considers a diversity of relevant perspectives (social, energy, household, public treasury, economy, environmental, etc.) and involves for this purpose all the necessary stakeholders. ACA understands the prevention of energy poverty as a priority, thus deeming as necessary the promotion of plans that implement realistic measures to improve the domestic energy efficiency, particularly in the homes of the most vulnerable.

Video of the 1st Spanish National Energy Poverty Forum: https://youtu.be/ojOgMhY6kNc