Energy Poverty Action Week calls for a new approach to Europe’s energy, says Chris MacManus MEP
Energy costs are a central element of the Cost of Living Crisis. As energy prices continue to sky-rocket, 80 million Europeans are at risk of energy poverty. More and more families are facing the choice between spending their money on energy or spending it on food. The 21-25th February is International Energy Poverty Action Week: a time to shine a light on energy poverty, its causes, and potential solutions.
“While energy poverty is exacerbated by the recent rise in energy prices, it is part of a long-term problem,” said Chris MacManus, MEP for the Midlands Northwest. “The share of income that low-income families dedicate to energy has doubled since 2000. 15% of people in Europe live in homes with leaking roofs or damp walls and floors. In the meantime, energy companies have made record windfall profits. Eight of the world’s biggest gas producers made $226,000 of profits per minute in 2021. Energy poverty is caused by inefficient, substandard housing, by our reliance on fossil fuels, and by broader injustices and austerity measures. Energy poverty is not a personal burden, but a political failure. It requires a political response.”
“In the short term, people need help to pay their bills and adequately power their homes. Sinn Féin is proposing Cost of Living Cash Payments to low- and middle-income households, graded progressively according to income level and paid for by additional solidarity taxes on high earners. In the long term, we need structural changes to the way we produce, use and perceive energy. Access to clean, affordable energy is a right that needs to be placed at the centre of Europe’s energy policy, where neoliberal market values have for too long held centre stage. Our steps to tackle the housing crisis need to be paired with a massive renovation programme to provide decent, efficient housing for all. Specific measures are needed to target these renovations towards the most vulnerable, including renters and those living in social housing.”
At events organised throughout Energy Poverty Action Week, the role of community energy projects in alleviating energy poverty has been brought to the fore. Local renewable energy projects can respond directly to the needs of households living in energy poverty and empower local communities. “Innovative projects across the EU are supporting local energy cooperatives, community education programmes, simplified legal procedures for renewable energy ‘pro-sumers’, energy poverty audits and new financial tools,” said MacManus. “We need to recognise and support the key contribution of community energy projects to fighting both climate change and energy poverty.”
“In the European Parliament, the debate is taking off about the Social Climate Fund. This new fund could be a key tool for ending energy poverty and supporting the just transition, but for now it is too closely tied to regressive carbon pricing measures to really tackle the root causes of energy poverty. I am pushing for improvements to the text that will maximise the potential of the Social Climate Fund to tackle existing energy poverty, as well as the social impacts of the energy transition. We also need a larger discussion of the EU’s energy system, its current energy pricing model, and steps to tackle the windfall profits of large energy companies, to make sure we are heating people’s homes, but not the planet.” ENDS