Following a request from the EU Council, on September 21 and 22, the European Economic and Social Committee met to draw up an opinion on measures to tackle energy poverty. The EESC addressed the issue of energy poverty by taking into consideration not only the economic aspects but also the social ones, including indirect causes that have led to higher energy costs, such as the conflict in Ukraine.
The main recommendations from the EESC include: (1) ensuring fair access to energy and security of energy supply, which must be a priority for the EU and its member states, and (2) ensuring the creation of a broad political coalition to tackle the issue with a comprehensive and direct approach. This coalition should indeed include leading European institutions, but also the European Committee of the Regions, the Covenant of Mayors, and civil society organizations, such as consumer associations and organizations representing the groups most at risk of energy poverty.
The EESC also notes that energy poverty is a growing problem and concern for EU citizens and businesses. It points out that in 2020, 8% of citizens stated they could not heat their homes adequately and that this percentage is likely to increase in the upcoming months. This growth of people facing energy poverty is due to rising energy prices that reached an inflation rate of 40.2 % in March 2022, with the annual rate of change of energy prices reaching a high of 99.6%. Thus, the increase in energy prices combined with rising transport and food prices augment the pressure on all citizens, especially low-income households.
Energy poverty, therefore, remains a major challenge with a considerable social impact, which is why the CISE stresses the importance of creating a Social Climate Fund. The European Commission is also urged to continue funding European projects dealing with the fight against energy poverty and to allocate new funds to the development of devices and technologies that are affordable and have the objective of reducing household energy consumption.