Andres Jaadla: we need to talk more about energy poverty in Estonia
The European Union is influencing increasingly the fundamental choices of our society. Estonia’s energy policy and energy economy are also closely linked to the decisions made in Brussels, where major changes are taking place: various measure are introduced by the union, the structure of energy production capacities is changed, promoting solutions based on renewable energy, transnational electricity connections and new national networks are developed; increasing effort are made for creation of common electricity market in the European Union.
What is important, however, is that the European Union’s idea of common market and change of monopolistic market has never been a target in itself, but a process that is primarily in the interest of consumers – free market is expected to work better. The Union allows the state to intervene in a situation where the market does not work or does not guarantee a reasonable price for the consumer. Member States should ensure that energy supply is guaranteed for household customers at clearly comparable, transparent and reasonable prices. The necessary measures should be taken to protect vulnerable consumer in the internal market. In other words, there is more and more talk of energy poverty in Europe.
The concept of “energy poverty” is still relatively unknown to Estonians, but what it means? Energy poverty is a situation in a household, where it is not possible to heat home or consume energy services at affordable costs. Energy poverty differs from income poverty as the welfare losses it causes occur also in higher-income households, which do not spend too much of their income on energy bills. There are differences in the definition of the problem of energy poverty in different countries. For example, in developing countries, the definition of energy poverty includes, in additions to energy costs, other aspects such as insufficient access to energy services and the use of outdated, inefficient and harmful technologies.
Affordability and inadequate residential heating are the most commonly used aspects in defining energy poverty in Europe. Energy poverty is the result of a combination of three main factors: low incomes, high energy bills and poor thermal efficiency. The secondary effects of energy poverty are the result of primary effects. If a household has had a problem of energy poverty for a long time, the low temperatures at home and insufficient use of energy services begin to affect the mental and physical health of population, with long-term effects. In the long run, the home loses the meaning of a comfortable and safe place, which in turn has a significant impact on human health.
In Estonia, energy poverty is the situation in a household, where it is not possible to heat home or consume other energy services at affordable costs. When defining energy poverty in Estonia, it is important to emphasize the aspect of insufficient heating for climatic reasons. At the same time, it is important to include into the definition the households that can heat their homes, but because of high costs, the quality of life of the household decreases in terms of other energy services. This aspect is important because households also use energy for cooking, lighting, household appliances and the use of IT and communication equipment. The absence or insufficient consumption of energy for these devices would affect the quality of life of households.
Today, unfortunately, energy poverty has not been sufficiently studied in Estonian to offer well-functioning solutions. One opportunity for Estonia could be development of citizen energy communities, which provide environmental, economic or social community benefits rather than generate financial profits, and which would access all suitable energy markets both directly and through aggregation in a non-discriminatory manner.
On order to tackle the energy poverty issue in Estonia, The Estonian Union of Co-operative Housing Associations (EKYL) has started working on a new EU-funded project POWERPOOR that aims at decreasing energy poverty levels in EU.
In POWERPOOR, EKYL will
– Engage with energy-poor citizens and groups in Estonia
– Build a network of Energy Supporters and Energy Community Mentors that will support energy-poor citizens in Estonia
– Design and implement energy-poor support programme to establish energy communities and alleviate energy poverty in Estonia
– Develop policy recommendations for mitigating energy poverty in Estonia
Find out more about the POWERPOOR project. or POWERPOOR in Estonian language
Follow how the project is setting up by following it on social media – Twitter, Facebook & LinkedIn.
Join the discussion by using the #POWERPOOR hashtag.
Chairman of EKYL
Board member of Housing Europe
POWERPOOR project has received funding from the European Union’s
Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 890437.