Reports 2016

Energy poverty: what role for the EU?

26 January 2016


Chair Lieve Fransen, Senior Advisor, EPC, opened the Dialogue by giving some background to Šefčovič’s work and inviting him to deliver the keynote speech. He began by welcoming the launch of the Task Force and saying that he hoped to see some concrete deliverables coming out of it. The EU wants to be number one on renewables, creating innovative technologies which will help to grow the economy and using this process to also improve the standards of living of EU citizens.  He then explained the importance of the social dimension of the Energy Union, stating that a society is measured not only by its development and innovation but also by its ability to care for its most vulnerable. He recognised that the transition to a low-carbon economy will mean the potential for certain sectors to grow and benefit, but the EU must also be responsive to sectors where jobs will be lost in the process. As such, the green economy will be one of the engines of the EU’s economic transformation.

He highlighted that for all Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) committed to at the Paris Climate Conference (COP21) to be fulfilled, there would need to be approximately €3.5 trillion of investment in clean and renewable technologies. The EU is positioned well to meet this challenge, being the only region in the world that has grown economically while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions. However, so far the EU has not found the best answers to respond to the dramatic changes that are taking place in Europe: there are a lot of people living in energy poverty, as well as a lot of young people who are well educated but do not have the best job skills for the energy transition. A lot more needs to be done to improve communication between educational establishments and industry to ensure that young people are learning the right skills, allowing them to contribute more to economic growth. He said that those who have already graduated and are on the job market should be given a second chance to acquire new skills because this will be key in the 21st Century.

On energy poverty, he said there are a lot of statistics, but not always conclusive ones as there is not one methodology used throughout the EU. Although Europe is probably the most egalitarian continent in the world, at least 10% of EU households are living in energy poverty and in some EU countries this is higher than 30%. This means older people sleeping in kitchens as this is the warmest room in the house, young people being unable to study effectively and a number of premature deaths. Even in the larger economies such as Germany, 350,000 households had their electricity cut off temporarily in 2015 due to being unable to pay their bill. This reality should be taken into account when policies are made, both at a national and EU level.

On EU actions, he highlighted that the Commission aims to put in place the right methodologies and common definitions so that reliable and comparable data can be gathered, which has been set out in the Commission’s July 2015 Communication ‘Delivering a New Deal for Energy Consumers’. The launch of an EU Building Stock Observatory is also being planned, which will include indicators on energy poverty – which is very often closely linked to the energy efficiency of buildings. He stressed that while data is important, this should not be an excuse for “wait and see” policies. The Commission will need to take actions when opportunities present themselves. On social policies, although the main responsibility lies with member states, regions and local communities, there is a European dimension to all of this.

He stated that 2016 is the year of delivery for the Energy Union. The Commission will table a review of the electricity market design, and reviews of the Energy Efficiency Directive and the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive. The aim of these reviews and upcoming proposals is to change the energy and climate policies landscape in the EU. All legislative proposals will also be drafted with the social dimension of the policy in mind. He argued that more can be done in the area of energy disconnections. While 17 member states have some restrictions on energy disconnection due to non-payment, 11 member states do not. While not wishing to ban disconnections and recognising that there is a cost to energy, he stated that there should be safeguards in place before someone is disconnected, sharing best practices from those countries who have effective restrictions. He said that there is no “one size fits all” solution to these issues and welcomed practical ideas to come from the Task Force on the best way to approach this at EU, regional and national level. The Commission is also working on market design to ensure that there are the right price signals for the most efficient and clean use of energy and that investment in the energy sector is attractive. However, where the market is liberalised, this also implies a level of responsibility.

In addition to safeguarding disconnections, he highlighted other mechanisms that can be used to alleviate energy poverty, including: empowering consumers through clearer bills and making it easier to switch supplier; ensuring a competitive and well-functioning internal energy market, which will result in better prices for customers; using financial vehicles to improve the efficiency of residential homes and ensuring member states respect their obligation to protect vulnerable consumers.

On financing, he stated that this is an area in which the Commission can act more vigorously than it has done in the past, in order to help address the challenge of energy poverty. Because renovating homes and investing in smart energy efficient devices is expensive, it will be important for energy efficiency policies to be able to help those with limited resources or difficulties to get a loan. He noted that the European Structural and Investment Funds are the largest sources of EU funding for energy efficiency in buildings– approximately €18 billion for the period until 2020 – which will significantly contribute to the deep renovation of buildings across the EU, including social housing. The new green mainstreaming in the Commission’s budget cycle up to 2020 will mean that 20% of the budget must be allocated to energy efficiency policies, which amounts to €180 billion over seven years. With these sums, the EU will be able to do a lot to effectively make the transition to a low carbon economy. Additionally, some of the first projects funded by the European Fund for Strategic Investment are focused on energy efficiency, including projects for the renovation of social housing – in France and Denmark, for example. The Commission’s 'Smart Financing for Smart Buildings' initiative also aims to simplify investment in the energy efficiency of buildings and make it more accessible to small-scale projects in cities and regions. He also highlighted the importance of sharing best practice on financing, as well as on addressing energy efficiency and energy poverty in general.

He concluded by thanking the EPC for setting up the Energy Poverty Task Force, highlighting its importance in assisting the Commission to deliver on Energy Union in 2016, particularly on energy poverty as one of its important social dimensions.

At this stage, the panel reflected on Šefčovič’s speech, who then responded to questions from the panel and audience. Gilles Vermot Desroches, Sustainability Senior Vice President, Schneider Electric, noted that tackling energy poverty touches on the circular economy, energy efficiency, sustainability, investment and training. He asked what the role of the private sector is in contributing towards tackling energy poverty, and what plans there are to inform citizens on these issues, particularly when it comes to training. Šefčovič said that in the first place, energy companies should provide a good price and service and be more responsive to people who find themselves in problematic circumstances. He agreed that behavioural change among citizens is also important, stating that much can be achieved by publicising the fact that a lot of energy can be saved through simple measures, such as not overheating a house. The private and public sector can also work together on encouraging these behavioural changes.

Benedek Javor, Member of the European Parliament, argued that there must be a reality check on where the EU is in practice. While the EU institutions like to talk about the EU as being “number one” on renewable energy and energy efficiency, this is actually not the case. In fact this is being led by China, which has installed more new renewable capacities in 2015 than the EU and the US combined. In the US, there was 20% more new renewable capacity in 2015 than the EU. He added that while the EU invested a lot of money in the past to energy efficiency, renewable energy and the energy transition, it is not a leading player on the market. While an agreement was made at the 2015 Paris Climate Conference (COP21), it remains to be seen what the EU’s role will be in reaching the targets agreed upon. The EU is far from being ambitious enough. He also questioned whether the Commission has the capacity to address the problem of bottle-necking at member state level, as there are no binding national targets for renewables or energy efficiency.

Šefčovič responded by saying that there are different statistics that can be taken into account. He argued that the EU is number one on renewables because it is the first economy in the world that really managed to grow sustainably – while the economy has grown by 46% since 1990, greenhouse gas emissions have been reduced by 24% at the same time. He agreed that the EU should not be complacent: the EU brought what are generally considered the most ambitious INDCs to COP21 and these will not be easy to achieve. However, he stated that the EU has a strong track record and will exceed targets. Innovation will also bring a lot of opportunities to accelerate the energy transition. To take advantage of this, the EU will need to find new ways to legislate, because there is now a different set of targets. All 2020 targets for efficiency, renewables and the reduction of greenhouse gases were mandatory and divided on a country-by-country basis. The Commission will need to be creative, but will be committed to the EU remaining number one for renewables in all legislative proposals.

An audience member argued that tackling energy poverty is more about social policy than energy policy. Šefčovič stated that while there can be an academic argument over the correctness of the term, more attention is being focused on energy poverty because access to energy is so essential to citizens exercising their rights within society. Not having access to electricity and heat creates specific social problems and has an enormous impact on people’s daily lives, such as children not being prepared properly to go to school and adults not being able to access the internet to look for jobs. At the same time, citizens in the EU pay on average three or four times more for energy than people in other developed countries. Therefore, there is a need to develop a set of instruments to tackle the social issues around energy poverty.

It was asked whether the European Semester could be used as an instrument to put more pressure on member states to do more on energy efficiency. Šefčovič said that the European Semester was introduced at the EU level as a response to the need to introduce more structural reforms in member states, aiming at better governance of economies and macro-economic situations in member states. In many countries where reforms have taken place the economy is growing again. At the same time the EU has learned that in order to make the Semester process more efficient, there is a need to focus on the top priorities of reforms. The number of country specific recommendations has therefore been reduced so that there is a realistic chance that they will be delivered on. In terms of energy policy, the aim is to use the annual State of the Energy Union report to give policy conclusions on what should be done in different countries. While these policy conclusions could also be included in the European Semester, there is a need to balance keeping the European Semester functional with ensuring that member states are asked to deliver on what they can.

On the possibility of regulated prices, Šefčovič said that the Energy Union strategy supports the phasing out of regulated prices that are below the costs, to avoid discouraging investment and accruing a debt for the next generation. This is a compromise for a very complex issue, aimed at maintaining a functioning energy market while developing more targeted measures to address energy poverty. He argued that it is a reasonable approach to say that the wealthy in society should not be able to take advantage of regulated energy prices to “heat their swimming pools”. There is a lot to do, with a lot of complex issues to work through.

Fransen then invited Javor to present the political activities and initiatives being discussed at the European Parliament on tackling energy poverty. He said that in Central and Eastern Europe as well as member states around the Mediterranean, energy poverty is a major issue that does not only effect the most vulnerable in society. It falls on national governments to do something to address this, but many are not finding the right answers. Generally, member states follow very traditional but ineffective approaches, such as keeping artificially low energy prices. A better approach would involve approaching the issue as a social problem, recognising differences between households and helping vulnerable households to pay their energy bills. However, there is an inherent problem with both approaches because they both encourage high energy consumption. There is therefore a need to completely change the approach to understanding energy poverty. Instead of helping households to pay for high energy consumption, they should be helped to consume less energy.

This also involves renewable energy, as households can produce their own energy through solar panels and other solutions to reduce the amount of energy used from the grid. However, currently most European subsidies for renewable energy and energy efficiency investments are giving 30% non-refundable support for improvements, which means that it is only really the wealthiest who are able to take advantage of this. In 2013 in Hungary, more than 75% of the money from the country’s renewable energy subsidy programme went to the three wealthiest districts of Budapest. He argued that instead of non-refundable subsidies, there should be Energy Service Companies (ESCO) financing, where payments for households do not require any initial capital and can be paid back through the savings made on energy.

He added that with almost all of the related directives and regulations under revision at the European Parliament - including the Energy Efficiency Directive review, the renewable energy progress report and a new Renewable Energy Directive to come – it is a good time to look at how energy poverty is approached, building a strong link between energy policy, renewable energy subsidy schemes, energy efficiency financing and social problems. He noted that the European Parliament also produced an own-initiative report on ‘Energy Poverty in the EU’ in December 2015, but said that the report focuses too much on solving the problem as a social problem, when it will require aspects of social and energy policy to address the problem effectively in the long term. However, the report did point out some important issues, including how to help vulnerable households through social systems and addressing the issue of very low taxation on highly energy-intensive industries in some member states.

In terms of specific policies, he argued that there should be a moratorium on winter disconnections in the EU. While the irresponsible use of energy should not be encouraged, it is important that households are not left without energy in the middle of an extremely cold winter. He agreed with Šefčovič that the creative use of existing European cohesion and structural fundsprovide an opportunity for the Commission to change the approach and concentrate on programmes and projects that link social issues and energy poverty with energy efficiency and renewable energy programmes. However, he said that this needs clear political cohesion on what should be done at different legislative levels.

Vermot Desroches then gave some reflections on the problem of energy poverty, as well as possible solutions and new initiatives that businesses can contribute to. He said that Schneider Electric’s vision of sustainability is to first discuss with different stakeholders and then work towards new solutions. He agreed that finding solutions to energy poverty will involve a mix of energy and social policy, with experts from both fields working together.

He noted that for many companies, the big question after COP21 is what solutions need to be delivered to ensure success in a world where the level of carbon emissions and the use of energy is key. There is a need to collaborate in order to innovate and bring new solutions to the market. The organisation advocates Active Energy Efficiency, which involves giving customers innovative tools to understand their energy usage and reduce energy consumption, with the idea that energy poverty should be addressed through innovation as well as social and energy policy. There should also be a combined contribution of the public and private sector, understanding the situation of people living in energy poverty in order to innovate and find relevant solutions. He hoped that the Task Force would be able to come up with these new solutions.

Audrey Dobbins, Researcher in Energy Economics, University of Stuttgart, then presented the findings of a May 2015 study conducted for the European Commission on ‘Energy poverty and vulnerable consumers in the energy sector across the EU: analysis of policies and measures’. She said that energy poverty effects households in every single member state, with the only difference being the scale and severity across member states. There is currently no data that directly measures energy poverty at the European level.However, there is Eurostat data that measures energy poverty proxy indicators, including the inability to keep adequately warm. She said that the data shows there are regional disparities in terms of how member states experience energy poverty. The Southern, South-Eastern and Eastern member states have more difficulty with energy poverty due to the structure of their economies.

The study focused on how member states understand the issues of energy poverty and what kinds of actions they are taking to address them, in order to provide recommendations to the Commission on the positive role it could have in helping to address these issues as well. This began with reviewing the definitions used across member states for energy poverty. The wording in the Commission’s third energy package dictates that member states should provide a definition for vulnerable consumers, but not necessarily for energy poverty. There is also no prescription as to how this definition should be approached. The study found that there was large variation between member states in how they interpreted the issue of vulnerable consumers. A lot of member states have a very broad definition, applying it to all households who are recipients of social welfare while other member states have a very narrow definition, specifically targeting households that are affected by disability or health issues. This variation also has a lot of influence in terms of how member states tackle the issue, because too narrow a definition means that many people will not receive any assistance and too broad a definition means that households who are in severe need don’t receive sufficient assistance.

She argued that the definition of vulnerable consumer should not only address socio-economic variables – income, age and health – but also the energy use characteristics associated with the energy sector, which includes the efficiency level of the building, the heating system and types of fuel used, amongst others. With these disparities and because there is no officially required definition of energy poverty, there is a lot of confusion when it comes to understanding and addressing the issue. Currently, there are only four member states with a legislated definition of energy poverty: Ireland, France, the UK and Cyprus.

She noted that the definition of a vulnerable consumer specifically addresses consumers in the internal energy market, limited to electricity and gas. However, the different definitions across member states and various studies does not limit energy poverty to these two fuels, but also includes biomass, district heating and sometimes even mobility. This frames the kind of actions that have been taken: for vulnerable consumers, it is more about protecting and ensuring continued access within the internal energy market, whereas energy poverty looks more at the affordability and long term structural issues. This also informs the kinds of stakeholders that take action: in terms of vulnerable consumers, this includes primarily regulators, energy utilities and government, whereas energy poverty has a broader range of stakeholders.

In looking at how member states have been approaching tackling energy poverty and protecting vulnerable consumers, the report categorised about 280 measures, grouped into four categories: consumer protection, information and awareness, financial support and energy efficiency. The report showed that not having an appropriate definition does not necessarily mean inaction. A wide variety of these measures have been put in place across member states. For example, about three-quarters of member states give financial support to vulnerable consumers.

In terms of recommendations, the report argues that the Commission should take a more prescriptive role, recognise that there is confusion over what energy poverty is and what a vulnerable consumer is, and define what these issues really are. Addressing vulnerable consumers should contain a socio-economic as well as an energy policy response and there should be a common definition of energy poverty, as it is very difficult to compare studies at the moment. The report advocates the inclusion of mobility, while also identifying that it is not possible to have the same metric across all member states because there are variable that are different such as housing stock and income levels. Each member state would therefore need to identify their own way of measuring what energy poverty means in that country.

The report also recommends that the Commission should take a strong role in coordinating progress, in terms of developing indicators, assisting member states with finding the most appropriate metrics for their national circumstances, coordinating best practices, bringing in expertise and ensuring that data sets are continually improved. Furthermore, the Commission could take a stronger role in targeting energy efficiency measures to vulnerable consumers through legislation and the allocation of funding.

She concluded by saying it is important to have a clear definition of energy poverty that is holistic, global, includes mobility and is not restricted to the internal energy market. This definition would also shape the kind of actions taken, in which more targeted measures can be taken to address the problem. There is also a need to identify the role of stakeholders in addressing the problem, consider how the data and indicators can be improved. It is also necessary to identify the specific barriers that will hinder progress.

Marieke Huysentruyt, Co-founder, I-propeller, then reflected on innovative initiatives and technologies that exist to tackle energy poverty. She said that energy poverty in a society often correlates with a lack of access to affordable quality housing. There are many policy levers that can be used to create affordable housing for everyone, so the focus should not only be on property charges or maintenance costs. From the start, there is a need to also consider construction cost, financing expenses and usage costs. Linking this to mobility is also key - it has been a mistake to build a lot of social housing in Europe in areas where families have to travel long distances to get to work or school. She argued that the only way to make a real difference to poorer people with respect to housing is through collaborations across the value chain, with the involvement of private actors, civil society, social entrepreneurial initiatives and public sector agencies, in order to have a collective vision.

She then gave three examples of concepts that have been established through this approach. The first of these is renovation service innovation. In Flanders, about 70% of rental housing stock is in the hands of private landlords, many of whom are over 50 and do not want to renovate their properties as they would rather leave it to the next generation. Many tenants also do not feel comfortable challenging their landlord to make needed renovations. As a response to this, I-propeller is collaborating with a Belgian construction company on a concept that will give shared responsibility to the tenant and landlord when making renovations. After the landlord commits to making a renovation and the tenant commits to doing minor work in the house, the construction company will give coaching support to the tenant and realise the full renovation, guaranteeing quality. The work is paid over time through part of the landlord’s rental income. This avoids upfront investment costs for the landlord and also gives the tenant responsibility, overcoming obstacles to the work taking place. She added that the public sector could also be involved by subsidising some of the work or co-funding some of the upfront investment costs to the construction company.

The second concept she presented is called the “Home of the Future”. The idea is to rethink the whole model of housing policy in order to make household budget management simpler, from design and construction, to giving tenants a fixed rental fee including bills in order to avoid surprise costs, to having one invoice in order to facilitate a simpler, clear view of living costs. Success in this concept will require a concerted effort from a full range of stakeholders, including energy suppliers, and will take a couple of years to be implemented.

Thirdly, she highlighted a consumer service innovation concept called the “energy nudge lab”. Energy companies have an enormous amount of data on energy usage, which could be used to give consumers information on average energy consumption for their kind of home or compared to their neighbours, which has been shown to impact energy use - energy company Opower have conducted a project which demonstrates that by providing information on the amount of energy their neighbours consume, it encourages customers to consume less.

She concluded by saying that all of these initiatives require strong backbone organisations with the legitimacy to create an environment where different actors can trust each other to collaborate and think through new solutions. She suggested that the Commission could help by nurturing the development of these organisations.

At this stage, an audience member asked where the incentive for landlords is in the renovation service innovation and whether these renovations would actually lead to increased rental costs to tenants following improvements to energy efficiency. Huysentruyt said that the incentives to the landlord are that the value of the property would go up in the long term and it may result in better relations with the tenant. The upfront cost is designed to be low because the long term benefits to the landlord are more significant than the short term ones.

Anne Houtman, Adviser to the Director General, DG Energy, then considered energy poverty from the point of view of the Commission. She reiterated that solutions will only come through the collaboration of actors across many different sectors, which is part of the reason why the issue is so difficult to tackle. She agreed that energy poverty is both a social and an energy issue and the consumer, energy and social sectors of the Commission will also need to work closely together. In terms of consumer policy, she said that this includes things like the cost of energy and the right to easily change supplier. It is also the obligation of member states to help consumers to choose between different companies to get the best prices.

On energy policy, she said that both the electricity and the gas directives give an obligation for member states to not only protect vulnerable consumers, but also to take appropriate measures to address energy poverty where it has been identified. The Commission must therefore ensure that member states respect their obligations, by helping them as well as enforcing the rules. For example, a team from DG Energy recently went to Bulgaria to try to help the government to move beyond regulating prices as a means of tackling energy poverty.

As the EU’s energy policy competences now include a security of supply and sustainability aspect, the Commission will revise all frameworks on energy efficiency policy, which will cover both buildings and appliances – which will be especially important as poorer households tend to buy cheaper appliances which are less energy efficient. On the buildings aspect, she noted that landlords investing in energy efficient renovations in order to charge more for rent is a problem, so the Commission will be looking at what potential EU-level legislation can help to solve the problem.

Discussion

Javor argued that landlords can be incentivised to invest in energy efficiency while also sharing the gains between landlords and tenants. The ESCO financing model means that both the rental costs and energy prices can go down as improvements are made. In terms of energy efficiency policies, he said that this should not only include buildings and appliances, but also electricity grids and power plants because efficiency measures can have a huge impact. Electricity grids and power plants which are in a bad state result in very significant energy waste.

An audience member asked whether and how the EU plans to include cities in an increased way within the Energy Union framework, and if there were plans to build on the trend of viewing energy as a service to citizens rather than a commodity. It was also questioned whether adding new targets of energy efficiency to power plants and electricity grids is feasible in the current political context.

Javor said that the support of cities will be crucial for any effective action on energy efficiency and the energy transition. There are currently a lot of good initiatives both at the EU-level and at the local level, so the bottleneck seems to be at the national level. A way therefore needs to be found to directly link EU initiatives with local communities. The Covenant of Mayors is a good network for these communities to share experiences and best practice. As a lot of positive action seems to be happening at the local rather than national level, the Commission should constantly monitor member states to see which governments do not have efficient programmes to work towards efficient and sustainable energy systems. He agreed that there is not a lot of political willingness for new efficiency targets and in fact there is quite a lot of pressure to remove targets, so policymakers and civil society must work well together to combat this.

Houtman said that the energy transition will mean going from a very centralised system to a very decentralised one, giving a lot more power to cities and local authorities. This is one of the main characteristics of the evolution of the energy system. Therefore, local communities must be effectively incentivised to take a stake in the energy transition or the transition will not happen at all. The Commission has a very close association with cities and associations, as well as with the Covenant of Mayors. The last meeting of the Covenant agreed to include energy poverty in its tasks and is now involved in the Commission’s work on energy poverty, including the work of the upcoming Citizen’s Energy Forum in London which will produce a report on renewable consumers and energy poverty. She added that by the end of 2016, the Commission will have established a whole new set of rules to reorganise the electricity market. This will take into account the changes in electricity production – where there used to only be big power plants injecting power on the transition system, there is now local production onto the distribution system, which means that distribution system operators have a specific role in balancing the system and coordinating with transmission system operators. There are also issues to be tackled around network tariffs, because local communities who are producers and consumers want to be connected to the network.

An audience member suggested that energy poverty is often used as a reason for status quo options, as more efficient and better-designed solutions involve an initial cost. He asked if there are plans to encourage wealthy consumers to also be energy efficient.

Dobbins stated that working on improving energy efficiency in South Africa – where there are high levels of inequality – began with the understanding that everyone can and should have the ability to participate in the energy system. While higher income households consume more energy than lower income households, efficiency should be increased in both sectors. Higher income households can afford to implement solutions, benefit from efficiency and thereby contribute to meeting targets. For lower income households, the objective should be to improve the quality of life, which includes increasing efficiency so as to enable households to use more energy. As they will need help to implement these measures, the financing also needs to match up. She reiterated that in order to address energy poverty, there must be a holistic view in order to put all of the “puzzle pieces” together. It is necessary to understand which stakeholders are required in different aspects, in order to move forward on all aspects with a common agenda.

It was asked whether the Commission could strengthen obligations on member states to tackle energy poverty by also placing obligations on energy companies that when investing in energy efficiency, their policies must be primarily targeted at the most vulnerable in society. It was also questioned how the benefits of the increasing development and liberalisation of the Energy Union can be diffused across member states.

Vermot Desroches said that countries need to be more mobilised to implement energy efficiency with new solutions and EU policies need to be in place to support this, but this alone will not solve energy poverty. The EU is at the beginning of not only an energy transition, but also something close to a revolution, which will require a change at all levels. He referred to Jeremy Rifkin’s ‘Third Industrial Revolution’, which argues that renewable technologies will lead to free electricity within ten years. While this is perhaps not likely, there is the potential that renewable energy could get to the point where there is more energy produced than consumed. He also noted that fixed price billing may be a good way for vulnerable consumers to avoid surprise costs, but is not a particularly good way of encouraging lower energy consumption.

Houtman noted that the issue of energy prices is immensely complicated. A third of the price is derived from the network and a third from taxation and fees, some of which will go to fund the energy transition. She agreed that fixed energy prices do not give an incentive to save energy. The issue of how to redistribute the benefits of liberalisation is also very complicated. Part of the solution can be through structural funds, allocating funds to the poorest regions. With the lower costs of renewables, there is actually a situation developing where it will be more profitable to invest in renewables and green technologies than remaining with old technologies.

Huysentruyt said that the electricity market is not very transparent and research may expose ongoing discriminatory practices against poorer households. The upfront costs that households pay for energy efficient renovations is also lower in higher income communities. The network is also problematic, as a lot of power lines need replacement but the process for replacing them is not transparent either and involves not well thought out compensation to local communities. The key will be to enable poorer households to access new energy efficiency technologies.

Fransen drew the Dialogue to a close by thanking the panel and reflecting that the Task Force will work on the basis of a need for transformation through cooperation across different areas, working with all relevant stakeholders to identify and address policy targets.