Looking Ahead: The European Union’s Energy Poverty Crisis

EnergyPoverty scaled

Energy poverty is a rising crisis in Southern Europe, especially in Bulgaria, where more than a quarter of the population can not afford to heat their homes. This is the highest level throughout Europe – followed by Lithuania and Cyprus. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated this pre-existing problem, making it even more challenging for people to meet and afford their energy needs. With significant global attention drawn to this critical situation, it is essential to reflect on the European Union’s (EU) role in curtailing the problem. 

The EU is a unique governing body with distinct challenges facing its 27 member states. Caused by a combination of factors – including low income, high energy prices, inefficient technologies, and poorly insulated buildings – energy poverty highlights one underlying problem the EU faces: finding common understanding within a diverse union. The differing interpretations of energy poverty and the lack of an accepted metric for identifying vulnerable consumers have led to inadequate and fragmented protection across the EU. A shared understanding would support recognizing the problem in EU member states and allow for proper coordination to sufficiently address the issue. 

With the EU’s fractured response to the crisis, the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD) aims to provide assistance and social services to the energy-poor. In 2020, more than 15 million Europeans benefited from food aid and other materials thanks to the FEAD fund – totaling over €3.8 billion from 2014-2020. The services provided ease family budgets so that people can direct their earnings towards their other critical necessities, most importantly, energy and electricity. The FEAD’s work will continue with increased support from the European Social Fund – an organization that contributes to the EU’s social policies and provides critical structural reforms. 

The energy poverty crisis has only recently gained recognition from the EU. By establishing implementable measures to lower fuel prices – including emergency income support and tax reductions – the EU is currently working to drive cohesive action among member states. Through collective government action and the work of organizations like the FEAD, energy poverty reduction is achievable.

Works Cited

Bouzarovski, Stefan, Saska Petrova, and Robert Sarlamanov. “Energy Poverty Policies in the EU: A Critical Perspective.” Energy Policy 49 (2012): 76–82. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2012.01.033. 

“Energy Poverty.” Energy. Accessed April 12, 2022. https://energy.ec.europa.eu/topics/markets-and-consumers/energy-consumer-rights/energy-poverty_en. 

“Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD).” Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD) – Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion – European Commission. Accessed April 12, 2022. https://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=1089. González-Eguino, Mikel. “Energy Poverty: An Overview.” Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 47 (2015): 377–85. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rser.2015.03.013.