EUKI BioJust

Just transition for solid-fuel dependent households

The EUKI BioJust project is supporting vulnerable, solid-fuel dependent households, in a transition to a low-emission and low-energy demand, in Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania, with replicable outcomes.

Bulgaria faces significant challenges in its residential sector, where energy consumption accounts for about one third of the total. This sector contributes substantially to greenhouse gas emissions, with Bulgaria reporting 8%. Despite available technologies for substantial energy reduction and transitioning to low-carbon sources, there has been no considerable improvement. The European Union (EU) average yearly reduction in space heating per square meter is 1.7%, but Bulgaria lags behind at 0.7%. The low renovation rate contributes to this, with only a 4% deep renovation rate in residential buildings between 2012-2023.

Residential buildings in Bulgaria heavily rely on solid fuels. The results of the population census in September 2021 show that 41% of dwellings in the country are heated with solid biomass,. This trend is expected to continue amid the ongoing energy crisis. The use of solid biofuel is linked to high particulate matter pollution, further exacerbated by a 50% gap between solid biomass supply and demand statistics. Firewood, often considered the ‘fuel of the poor,’ sees increased usage among lower-income households. Energy poverty affects 23% of households in Bulgaria, according to the Energy Poverty Advisory Hub database.

Regarding the current relevant policies in place, only 325 000 people receive heating allowance for the winter season 2023/24, mainly in the form of firewood, while approximately 40% of the population or around 2,6 million people can be classified in energy poverty. The allowance of 546,95 BGN (280EUR) covers energy for 2500 kWh per season for 5% of the population. Long-term solutions in the household segment, particularly in energy efficiency and to a lesser extent in heating base substitutions, have been lagging and mostly concentrated in shallow energy retrofits of 2500 multi-apartment residential buildings in the last 15 years.

The current NECP additional measures scenario assumes marginal improvement via introducing a standard for coal burned for heat and the humidity content in firewood and assumes continued fuel substitution with natural gas and district heating connections, but no heat pumps. The Bulgarian LTS does not include any target on the affected households, nor the NBRP. While the latter identified the worst performing buildings, the building renovation objective was only set on the whole residential building stock.

The NRRP covered additional 1000 buildings for renovation, and currently under re-negotiation might include up to 750 million EUR for a 50%-grant scheme for households to develop solar PV and energy storage, but pilot schemes for solar heating remain much less – 120 million EUR for PV and solar water heating but excluding heat pumps.

While Bulgaria, along with Hungary and Romania, identified underperforming buildings in their long-term renovation strategies, there is a lack of tailored measures for these structures to achieve deep energy renovation. Addressing these challenges is crucial, and national energy and climate plans must incorporate substantial emissions reduction strategies for the residential sector during the 2023-24 revision process. Additionally, utilizing the National Buildings Renovation Plan to implement appropriate measures for a decarbonized and energy-efficient building stock is essential.

CEE Context

The EU needs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to at least 65% by 2030, but Europe’s green heart could be at risk if we put pressure on existing forests to meet our need for biomass for energy production to make us independent of fossil fuels. Across Central and Eastern Europe, forest biomass-based heating is used by 30 to 40% of the population, predominantly by the most vulnerable consumers and in low-efficiency burning stoves which also are responsible to a large extent for the high PM pollution. Energy poverty is a harsh truth in the CEE region, and it particularly affects the households that are most vulnerable.

In order to achieve a sustainable future, EU and national policy and legal framework such as the revised National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs) as well as ‘Fit for 55’ package and ‘RePowerEU’ must have clear objectives for completely phasing out fossil fuels and must provide a clear pathway towards energy transition of vulnerable households in an equitable and urgent manner. To achieve these objectives, adequate policy and financing for sectoral decarbonisation and nature-based climate adaptation measures are crucial, as well as educating and informing the population of the importance of responsible use of biomass and improving the energy efficiency of households.

WWF and Habitat for Humanity believe that the failure to tackle the household unsustainable biomass use means that a lot of harm will be done to nature and people alike, so it embarks on the EUKI BioJust project to sustain the just transition for solid-fuel dependent households.

Project objectives

• Increasing the commitment of relevant authorities in Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania in improving national climate strategies ((NECPs, LTSs, and NRRPs), policies and financial schemes targeting the energy efficiency of vulnerable, solid-fuel dependent households, by developing guidelines and organising discussions.

• Through the instruments developed in the project, such as a guideline, replicable local solutions and training, local municipalities in pilot areas will be able to better address energy performance improvements of vulnerable, solid-fuel dependent households in their communities.

• Rise general public support for prioritising affected households and communities at strategic and local levels, encouraging active participation in the implementation of local action plans where applicable.

Start of the project: 01.11.2023
End of the project: 31.12.2025

Project lead: WWF Hungary
Project partners: WWF Hungary, WWF Bulgaria, WWF Romania, Habitat for Humanity Hungary, Habitat for Humanity Bulgaria

                                                                       

This project is part of the European Climate Initiative (EUKI) of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK).