Solidarity is a key principle of the just, clean energy transition embedded within the European Green Deal, which specifically recognises an important role for energy communities (ECs).
CEES aims to validate EC actions that uphold energy justice and alleviate energy poverty.
The CEES consortium creates a unique opportunity to work with – and learn from – EU citizens facing energy poverty across diverse countries and local contexts.
To support the overarching aim of analysing the validity of solidarity mechanisms to address energy poverty, CEES will:
- survey existing mechanisms and measures by which ECs support energy-poor households and develop ways to validate the most promising approaches.
- pilot selected approaches across a wider number of projects and programmes.
- assess the pilots using frameworks established during the survey.
- promote boarder deployment of effective approaches through the Energy Solidarity Toolkit.
More specifically, the project will evaluate current practices associated with ways to:
- identify who affected by energy poverty, how and to what degree.
- engage with people affected, with the EC members and with other actors and stakeholders.
- act to alleviate energy poverty through energy efficiency measures and by boosting energy know-how.
- support action for energy poverty through legal, regulatory, financial and non-financial frameworks.
- measure the impact of mechanisms and measures.
Ultimately, CEES aims to empower ECs and organisations (including those working in adjacent sectors, e.g. financial advice, healthcare or fire/police services) to apply the most effective interventions to alleviate energy poverty.
Survey existing mechanisms and measures
To better understand current EC activities, CEES will survey its own Partners and launch an ‘open call’ to seek input from others across the EU. The survey will aim to learn more about the extent to which ECs address energy poverty, how they do this, and any challenges they face. Specifically, it will cover key areas such as:
- How ECs identify vulnerable households.
- How they fund their work on energy poverty.
- What kinds of ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ measures they implement.
- How they measure impacts.
- Whether existing regulatory systems in the contexts in which they operate help or hinder this work.
Importantly, the survey also seeks to identify good practices that others might pilot during the CEES project, so their suitability for inclusion in the Energy Solidarity Toolkit can be assessed.
Pilot promising mechanisms and measures
Based on the survey, CEES will identify those mechanisms and measures that show the greatest potential to support energy solidarity and establish frameworks to evaluate their implementation.
CEES Partners and other ECs interested in participating will choose which actions to add to existing programmes, ideally taking the opportunity to fill gaps in their service offerings or build up new areas of expertise.
The process of piloting will also create opportunity to improve or adapt actions to local contexts.
Assess pilot projects
Using frameworks established by academic partners during the early stages of the project, CEES will evaluate the efficacy of the pilots undertaken in terms of reducing energy poverty and supporting other objectives.
From a solidarity perspective, the interventions will be evaluated in terms of delivering energy justice and supporting ‘capabilities’ such as good health, education, and social participation. The assessments will take account of the diversity of populations and contexts.
Importantly, the assessments will also seek to identify any barriers that hampered implementation.
Learnings from the survey, pilot, and assess phases will form the basis for the Energy Solidarity Toolkit.
Promote deployment of effective mechanisms and measures
The ultimate aim of CEES is to create an Energy Solidarity Toolkit that will help REScoops and ECs across the EU – and around the world – adopt and/or adapt actions that have proven to be effective.
The CEES Toolkit will include mechanisms that cover the full scope of actions needed, from early detection of people living in energy poverty to corrective measures, capacitation, financing, training, and engagement of other community actors and leaders.
Identifying vulnerable households
Struggling to pay energy bills is a deeply personal matter, which many households try to self-manage by reducing consumption, cutting other expenses, or developing various coping mechanisms.
CEES will test various ways to identify vulnerable members of ECs, assess the level of vulnerability and their specific needs, and then align the most appropriate actions/interventions.
Importantly, CEES will test and assess diverse approaches that target diverse populations in different contexts, also considering specifics of age, gender, occupation, income, etc.
Engaging people in energy poverty, ECs and other actors
A solidarity approach to tackle energy poverty is people-focused, starting with those affected. Research shows that uptake of existing programmes to help the energy-poor is often low, suggesting the need to find new ways to engage.
While strong relations among members is a characteristic of ECs, the commitment to tackle energy poverty often requires new types of engagement within and beyond the membership. Expanding knowledge and expertise beyond energy installations and supply, to include energy renovations for example, will require ECs to engage with many actors across diverse institutions and agencies.
Taking action against energy poverty
Building quality has the largest effect on the energy needed to support the health and well-being of occupants: poor-quality homes are the biggest driver of energy poverty. But personal habits also play a role. For this reason, action needs to balance two approaches:
- Hard measures – such as energy efficiency renovations – are the only way to reduce energy demand, as well as energy bills, over the long term. Often costly and disruptive, they can be difficult to implement.
- Soft measures focus on helping energy-poor households optimise energy consumption; they typically involve low- or no-cost actions, such as switching to LED lighting.
Lifting people out of energy poverty requires coordinated efforts by multiple actors: energy producers and suppliers, energy efficiency experts, NGOs and social agencies, and financial institutions, among others. CEES aims to help identify who is best placed to do what and how to organise actions to leverage results.
Creating supportive frameworks
Tackling energy poverty through energy solidarity approaches requires ‘people-focused’ frameworks across three key areas:
- legal and regulatory structures need to be designed to facilitate multi-faceted and cross-disciplinary actions.
- financial mechanisms need to allocate resources strategically and efficiently and should be easy to access and transparent.
- non-financial mechanisms should be considered integral to targeted action and recognised for their ability to leverage other support mechanisms.
Identifying barriers in these areas – and finding ways to overcome them – will be an important outcome of the Pilot stage.
Measuring the impacts of action
Increasingly, entities that can provide financial or non-financial support to alleviate energy poverty require data to demonstrate the impacts of actions undertaken.
CEES has set project-related targets in terms of the number of households assisted, reductions in energy use and related emissions, and triggering financing for action to alleviate energy poverty.
Yet CEES recognises that other measures, both quantitative and qualitative, may be more important. Improving the thermal comfort in the home for lower cost, for example, is shown to empower people economically, boost their overall health and well-being, and increase their ability to participate in society (e.g. through employment and education).
A broad range of such measures will be included in the Energy Solidarity Toolkit.