While energy poverty is defined in diverse ways by different organisations and political entities, CEES has adopted the following definition, which reflects and advances the current EU definition and the most recent academic contributions to this debate:

The situation in which households are unable to access affordable ‘energy services’ – including adequate warmth, cooling, lighting, and energy to power appliances – that underpin elements of ‘human flourishing’, such as health and wellbeing, relationships, social inclusion, employment, recreation, and education.

Energy poverty is typically associated with several interlinked factors:

  • Energy consumption, which is related to the energy efficiency of dwellings (a particularly significant factor in many cases) and of equipment, appliances and electronic devices.
  • Energy markets, prices and tariffs.
  • Household income.
  • Access to national energy grids (e.g. gas and electricity), which tend to be more cost-effective than off-grid fuels (such as oil).
  • Some people’s need for relatively high levels of energy services (for instance, older people or people with disabilities might spend more time at home and have a higher need for heating/cooling).

This interplay of factors makes assessing energy poverty – and taking steps to reduce it – highly context-specific; identifying and implementing solutions that address specific household needs can be a resource-intensive process. It also means that identifying households in energy poverty is challenging and sometimes contentious.

Poor quality homes equipped with old, inefficient heating systems, electrical wiring and appliances drive up energy demand … often driving people into energy poverty.

The fact that countries within the EU and UK ‘measure’ energy poverty in different ways and thus may collect different types of data (or have very little data collected), exacerbates the challenge. It also explains, in part, why current estimates of how many EU and UK citizens are affected vary widely, from 30-80 million people or 7%-15% of the population.

While recognising the need to make policy and take action at national and regional levels, the EU has recently emphasised the important role of energy communities (ECs) in tackling energy poverty. This development informs CEES aims and approach. With the end goal of  creating an Energy Solidarity Toolkit that will help ECs take effective action locally, CEES will survey, pilot and evaluate mechanisms and measures currently being applied.  

To better understand three key concepts that underpin CEES, see also the blogs on Energy communities and Energy solidarity.

To learn about ways to participate directly in CEES, visit Get Involved. If you are an EC or other community energy initiative tackling energy poverty, please let CEES know about your work by completing the CEES Survey.

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The CEES project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 101026972.