In the period July 2020 – June 2021, Habitat Bulgaria implemented the first joint advocacy project with the European Climate Foundation. Habitat Bulgaria actively advocated for the adoption of a Long-term Strategy for the Renovation of the Housing and Non-housing Stock 2021-2050, the development of a definition, parameters and content of „Energy Poverty” and the prolongation of the National Programme for Energy Efficiency of the Multi-family Buildings on the basis of new principles for co-financing and selection and with a focus on supporting the low-income households for their participation in the Programme.
Part of the key activities that the organization carried out:
• Assessment of stipulated mechanisms for support of the participation of low-income and vulnerable households in the process of the renovation of the housing stock in the CEE countries;
• Research on the existing definitions of “Energy Poverty” in Hungary, Slovakia, and Romania;
• Survey of municipal officers, non-governmental representatives, and professional house managers on the importance of the improvement of the existing mechanisms of the National Program for Energy Efficiency of the Multi-family Buildings;
• Number of policy position statements requiring changes in national strategic documents related to the energy renovation of the housing stock.
Habitat Bulgaria continues its successful partnership with the European Climate Foundation, starting from July 2021 to June 2022. With the second joint project, the organization enriches the advocacy activities for access to energy renovation executed in the first year of the partnership. Habitat Bulgaria will put a strong emphasis on the importance of the European Climate Law and the intermediate goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to at least 55% below 1990 levels by 2030, as well as the role of energy renovation of residential buildings in tackling energy poverty and achieving EU carbon neutrality by 2050.
Habitat Bulgaria will carry out its advocacy activities in the following areas:
• Energy poverty and socially just differentiated grant support – priority of the low-income and energy-poor households;
• Advantages of the energy efficiency improvement of the housing stock;
• Advantages of the adoption of minimum energy performance standards;
• Carbon pricing, eco-design and energy labelling – advantages and importance.
Energy poverty is a situation in which households are unable to access essential energy services. With nearly 34 million Europeans, mostly from Central-Eastern European countries, unable to afford to keep their homes adequately warm in 2018, energy poverty is a major challenge for the EU. In the same period, Bulgaria is the country with the highest percentage (14.8%) of energy costs, as share of total low-income households’ expenditure. Energy poverty results from a combination of low income, high expenditure of disposable income on energy and poor energy efficiency, especially with regard to the performance of buildings.
Ground-breaking research by OpenExp tackles the challenge of cross-country analysis of the progress being made to alleviate energy poverty in Europe. The European Domestic Energy Poverty Index (EDEPI) is a composite indicator that computes, for low-income households, into a single figure such progress across four common metrics used to assess the causes and symptoms of energy poverty:
• Energy expenditures as a share of total household expenditures;
• Inability to keep home warm in winter;
• Inability to keep home cool in summer;
• Living in dwelling with leaky roof.
EDEPI scores show the majority of EU countries have ‘moderately high’ to ‘extreme’ levels of energy poverty among low-income households. The OpenExp research reveals that three European countries are with the highest levels of energy poverty – Bulgaria, Hungary, and Slovakia. The latest edition of EDEPI ranks Bulgaria as the country with the highest levels of energy poverty with 0.7 EDEPI, which is defined as extreme. The other two countries have 10-12 times better indicators than Bulgaria, respectively, Hungary with 6.2. EDEPI and Slovakia with 8.4 EDEPI. In contrast, the countries with almost no energy poverty are Sweden with 95.4 EDEPI and Finland with 85.6 EDEPI.
Energy poverty is a key concept consolidated in the legislative package entitled ‘Clean Energy for All Europeans’, which is designed to facilitate a just energy transition. Under Regulation (EU) 2018/1999 of the European Parliament and of the Council (‘the Governance Regulation’) and the recast Electricity Directive 2019, the Commission is required to provide indicative guidance on appropriate indicators for measuring energy poverty and on the definition of a ‘significant number of households in energy poverty’. There is no standard definition of energy poverty, and it is therefore left to Member States to develop their own criteria according to their national context. In their National energy and climate plans (NECPs), Member States have to assess the number of households in energy poverty. In the event that a Member State finds that it has a significant number of households in energy poverty, it shall include in its plan a national objective as well as policies and measures to reduce energy poverty. So far, Bulgaria has not met these requirements.
A fair transition towards a climate-neutral Union by 2050 is central to the European Green Deal proposed by the Commission in December 2019. A centerpiece of this Green Deal is the Renovation Wave, a major initiative designed to boost the structural renovation of private and public buildings, thereby reducing emissions, boosting recovery and addressing energy poverty. Such structural renovation shall help boost EU efforts in climate change mitigation. For this reason, it has been considered vital that the Renovation Wave and this Recommendation be jointly adopted in order to mutually strengthen the calls to tackle energy poverty and worst-performing buildings.
Next Generation EU confirms the Renovation Wave’s role as one main facilitator of the green recovery. National long-term renovation strategies and other instruments designed to meet the 2030 and 2050 energy efficiency targets should be steered towards protecting energy-poor households and empowering vulnerable energy consumers by helping people save money on energy bills, providing healthier living conditions, and reducing energy poverty. Identifying the households most in need of protection and dwellings most in need of renovation helps in targeting and better managing public interventions, thereby producing practical outcomes for consumers, improving energy efficiency, and minimising any distortions in the functioning of the internal energy market.
Renovating our homes and buildings will save energy, protect against extremes of heat or cold and tackle energy poverty. The new Social Climate Fund will support EU citizens most affected or at risk of energy or mobility poverty. It will help mitigate the costs for those most exposed to changes, to ensure that the transition is fair and leaves no one behind. It will provide EUR 72.2 billion over 7 years in funding for renovation of buildings, access to zero and low emission mobility, or even income support. In addition to homes, public buildings must also be renovated to use more renewable energy, and to be more energy efficient.
The Fund should provide funding to Member States to support measures and investments in increased energy efficiency of buildings, decarbonisation of heating and cooling of buildings, including the integration of energy from renewable sources, and granting improved access to zero- and low-emission mobility and transport. These measures and investments need to principally benefit vulnerable households, micro-enterprises or transport users. Pending the impact of those investments on reducing costs and emissions, the Fund will also be able to finance temporary direct income support for vulnerable households.
Below you can see four infographics that Habitat Bulgaria has created on the topic “Energy poverty”.
European Commission: https://ec.europa.eu/energy/topics/markets-and-consumers/energy-consumer-rights/energy-poverty_en
EU Energy Poverty Observatory: https://www.energypoverty.eu