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Women and women-led households are disproportionately affected by energy poverty – a condition that worsens gender inequality, exacerbated by age, class and ethnic background among other factors. It is crucial to take a closer look at the relationship between energy poverty and gender. EmpowerMed’s just published a report to enable us such a look.

Find this “Energy poverty and gender – Facts and arguments” report here:

www.empowermed.eu/resource/energy-poverty-and-gender-facts-and-arguments/

Big data analysis is becoming an increasing field of interest for research to analyse, identify and predict final user’s behaviour. For this reason, in the energy sector, smart metering is generally used to find new business opportunities and, theoretically, it is said that it could also help to fight energy poverty issues. Nonetheless, when tackling social injustice issues, the deployment of massive technology might also bring other side effects. This study analyses the capability of smart metering to mitigate energy poverty in Europe according to the current approaches of projects and the risks it might bring to the more vulnerable layers of our society.

The contents of the paper was presented and published in the IEEE Electric Power and Energy Conference (EPEC) in November 2020.

This academic article is accessible on the publication section.

Contributors:

  • Mattia Barbero, Cristina Corchero (IREC)
  • Lluc Canals Casals (IREC), Sergio Tirado Herrero (UAB), Empowermed’s partners

Municipality of Vlora (Albania) – In Albania, many households have seen their incomes decrease due to covid-19. Milieukontakt and its partners are working with households to empower and help them tackle energy poverty, and cope with their electricity bills while their incomes have decreased.

Entela, a committed woman in Albania and a strong energy auditor volunteer, agreed to tell us about her work and the lessons she learns from working with households in rural areas.

For further information about energy poverty in the Municipality of Vlora, please download the Vlora pilot site assessment report in Albanian available here: www.empowermed.eu/resource/albanian-toolbox/

Testimonial suggested by our EmpowerMed partner: Milieukontakt Albania, serving society towards sustainability

Article suggested by our partner ESF (Enginyeria Sense Fronteres / Barcelona)

Barcelona (Catalonia, Spain) – A recent agreement with authorities obliges multinational company Endesa to write off more than 28 million euros of debt in Catalonia. This represents 73% of the households debt accumulated since 2015. Endesa is also committed to contribute to a fund for future non-payments. This agreement closes the circle of Catalan Law 24/2015 that banned supply cuts to vulnerable households and was adopted through a push from civil society.

The Catalan Administrations and Endesa have signed at the end of March an agreement, which will allow thousands of vulnerable Catalan families – about 35,000 of them – to be released from the debt accumulated from 2015 to 2020 with the company. Those families also have a guarantee not to accumulate new debts from now on. This is a historic agreement for low-income households.

The agreement addresses two major outstanding issues: the accumulated debt and future non-payments. Regarding the debt, Endesa will write off 100% of the unpaid bills for the vulnerable families between July 2015 and December 2018. The debt accumulated in 2019 and 2020, estimated at more than 21 million EUR, will be shared equally between the company and the administration. In total, it is estimated that Endesa will write off around 28 million euros (73% of the debt incurred by families since the entry into force of Law 24/2015). Regarding future non-payments, the creation of a Solidarity Care Fund is agreed, which will make it possible for the affected people to pay considerably less for their bills, thus avoiding the generation of new debts. Endesa and the administration will each contribute 50% to this fund.

The Alliance Against Energy Poverty (APE) and EmpowerMed partner Enginyeria Sense Fronteres (ESF) were the ones who organised to give a voice to the vulnerable families, who have lived in anguish for years because of the debt contracted with Endesa. For APE and our partner ESF, “It was a long journey, but the wait was worth it, because today another stone has been laid to eradicate energy poverty in Catalonia. After the great success achieved with the approval of the Law 24/2015, which prohibited supply cuts to vulnerable households, the first energy company in terms of number of customers in Catalan territory signs an agreement which, five years ago, was unthinkable.” The agreement also obliges the company to adjust the conditions and terms of the energy contracts of vulnerable families, so that no extra or unneeded costs are being charged with no reason.

This success story is made possible also thanks to the participation of several actors such as the Generalitat de Catalunya, through its departments of labor, social affairs and family and business and competitiveness, the provincial councils of Barcelona, Tarragona, Girona and Lleida, Barcelona City Council, Barcelona Metropolitan Area, and municipal and social entities.

This agreement will allow the vulnerable households to start from a scratch and get rid of this heavy backpack. The Alliance sees a better future for all these households: “We are aware that today is only a first step, an extremely important one, of course. From now on, we will continue working so that the Solidarity Care Fund is put into operation as soon as possible and no family accumulates debt with Endesa to face the same pressures as these 35,000 families.” Now, other processes to sign agreements with other major companies should follow in the coming months.

For the APE and ESF, this victory is one more step towards achieving that all citizens have their right to energy and water effectively recognized. This step shows that mobilised and empowered civil society can be an important actor in the fight against energy poverty.

For further information about energy poverty in this pilot site, please download the Barcelona pilot site assessment report in Catalan available here:   https://www.empowermed.eu/resource/spanish-toolbox/

Find the APE and ESF press release in Catalan and Spanish here: https://pobresaenergetica.es/2021/03/29/firmat-el-conveni-amb-endesa-que-alliberara-35-000-families-del-seu-deute/

As part of the efforts to raise awareness about the gender dimensions of energy poverty in Europe, EmpowerMed was featured in the ‘Making decarbonisations fair’ conference last March 1st, 2021. Project partners Katharina Habersbrunner (Women Engage for a Common Future, WECF) and Sergio Tirado Herrero (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, UAB) introduced the EmpowerMed gender and energy poverty factsheet and hosted an interactive online session on intersectional approaches to energy poverty alleviation with the more than 50 people that attended the session titled ‘Gender struggles: just approaches to energy poverty alleviation’. The discussion gathered participants’ recommendations for engaging with the four key stakeholders identified by the EmpowerMed project: national decision makers, health practitioners, social actors and utility companies. Participants highlighted, among other issues, the need for gender-disaggregated data at the sub-household level, male biases in energy poverty-related medical advice, and the dependency on social networks of women-led households indebted to utility providers.

The ‘Gender struggles’ session also provided in-depth presentations and commentaries by Dr Nthabiseng Mohlakoana (Stellenbosch University), Dr Carmen Sánchez Guevara (Technical University of Madrid), Dr Saska Petrova (University of Manchester) and Professor Joy Clancy (University of Twente). In their contributions, guest speakers critically addressed the ‘home’ as highly gendered space and as a critical scale for tackling inequalities that hinder a gender-just (energy) transition. They also called for gender-just approaches to addressing energy poverty through targeted and context-specific tools rather than generic policy instruments. All in all, the session contributed to raise awareness about the gender dimensions of energy poverty and transitions and to create opportunities for networking across the research, civil society and policy communities that attended the conference. It was co-hosted by Mariëlle Feenstra (University of Twente) and EmpowerMed researcher Sergio Tirado Herrero.

The ‘Making decarbonisations fair’ conference took place between March 1st and 4th and invited researchers, practitioners and policymakers to an interactive, four-day online knowledge exchange workshop focused on collaborative learning on questions relating to ensuring fairness in the transition to decarbonised energy and housing systems. It was co-organised by the UK’s Fuel Poverty Research Network, Portugal’s Defesa do consumidor (DECO) and Center for Environmental and Sustainability Research (CENSE -FCT NOVA), and the COST Action ENGAGER (European Energy Poverty: Agenda Co-Creation and Knowledge Innovation).

You can watch the video recording of the ‘Gender struggles: just approaches to energy poverty alleviation’ session here.

Together with 9 other organisations and initiatives, on 16 February 2021, EmpowerMed partner Focus sent a call to the Government of the Republic of Slovenia to stop the increase in energy poverty due to the Covid-19 epidemic.

In Slovenia, the Covid-19 epidemic has increased energy use due to ‘being trapped at home’. With the simultaneous loss of all or part of incomes, the risk of energy poverty has increased for many in Slovenia. Statistical office of Slovenia reports that the consumption of electricity in households in the first six months of 2020 was higher in all months except May than in the same period last year. The difference between monthly consumption in 2020 compared to 2019 was the largest in March, when it was 9% higher than in March 2019. Statistical office attibutes higher electricity consumption in households in this period to the changed conditions caused by covid-19, as more people stayed at home for various reasons during this time (eg because of work from home, waiting for work, due to school closure).  The data of utility company Elektro Maribor shows a similar picture: the consumption of households in 2020 was as much as 5.3% higher, which is the largest increase since 2008.

Extensive government measures significantly alleviated the material hardships of households due to the covid-19 epidemic last year. Nevertheless, the number of materially endangered households in 2020 increased by 8000. Therefore, the Government of the Republic of Slovenia is asked to, as part of the adoption of the Acts on Measures to Mitigate the Consequences of COVID-19 (so-called PKP laws):

1. prohibit disconnection from electricity and gas for the duration of the epidemic,

2. allocate the necessary financial resources for households receiving social assistance, or protection allowance, for the payment of increased energy costs in the amount of at least EUR 100 and

3. repay debts to energy suppliers that incurred during the Covid-19 epidemic, if the debt was caused by the person’s unemployment or a significant reduction in income during the Covid-19 epidemic, or at least introduce the right to defer payment of energy costs.

In addition to that, the 10 organisations and initiatives call on the Government of the Republic of Slovenia to legally regulate the ban on disconnection from various forms of energy between 1 October and 31 March, i.e. during the heating season in the case of a retired person living alone, a person living with a child or children up to the age of 5, a person with disabilities or a person who has long-term health problems, and a person in serious financial difficulties.

Milieukontakt with the support of young volunteers’ group, within the EmpowerMed project has started the process of energy audit of the target group in the Municipality of Vlora. The first visits were made to families lead by female households, supported with economic assistance, elderly and other groups in need, who live in energy poverty conditions. These are the categories which have difficulty in paying the electricity bill and do not have the opportunity to heat their homes adequately during the winter or keep them cool during the summer. Also, the visited households cannot make the necessary investments to improve energy efficiency, which would provide them with better living conditions and economic benefits, thus paying less for the energy they consume.

The volunteers in the discussion with the family members asked if they have heat loss, insufficient insulation of doors and windows, humidity, etc. They were advised specifically on the difficulties and problems presented by households for poor economic conditions, which affect energy poverty and lack of other vital services in general. Households got information on health problems that are related to lack of comfort conditions both in winter and summer season.

The project donated to households some devices that serves to save electricity such as insulation for doors and windows, LED lamps, power extender, shower heads, etc. Installation was followed with advices from auditors on electric equipment maintenance, energy and water saving tips. By controlling their consumption, they will be able to control their electricity and water bills.

The EmpowerMed project aims to contribute to alleviation of energy poverty and improving the health of people affected by energy poverty in coastal areas with a special focus on women, through practical measures adapted to empower families affected by energy poverty and the selection of appropriate energy sources.

EmpowerMed project is happy to share this opinion piece published in FORESIGHT Climate & Energy by EmpowerMed partner Sergio Tirado Herrero, PhD, of the Institute of Environmental Science and Technologies (ICTA) at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB).

The opinion piece reflects upon this critical review of EU-funded projects from an energy poverty and spatial and gender inequalities perspective, which EmpowerMed published earlier this year.

As a summary of recommendations, the report calls to:

– reconsider energy saving through behaviour change goals as vulnerable households often struggle to achieve a minimum level of domestic energy services for a life with dignity;

– carefully incorporate gender dimensions and avoid the reinforcing dominant household relationships and models in climate and energy poverty action;

– re-empower affected households beyond a symptomatic treatment of energy poverty.

IREC and UAB, two of our EmpowerMed partners will participate to the Annual IEEE Canada Power and Energy Conference which be held November 9-10, 2020, and will be moving to a virtual delivery.


The article entitled : “Smart Meters Tackling Energy Poverty Mitigation: Uses, Risks and Approaches » was capable to find its place in this technology focussed conference, highlighting the relevance to put technology at the service of people and not just for profit; the (on-line) presentation will be made the week of 9 November.

The full article will be published in the proceedings of the conference some days later.

More information here : https://epec2020.ieee.ca/

On September 30th, the Geres was in the final at the Stop Exclusion Energy Trophies! The ceremony took place at the Ministry of Ecological Transition with the Fondation des Transitions in Paris.

Alongside 23 laureates, we presented our action to fight against energy poverty in the Mediterranean focused on health, gender and empowerment.

On this occasion, the local newspaper La Provence devoted us a nice article promoting our action!

Unfortunately, we were not selected by the jury. But we haven’t said our last word! See you in 2021, even more determined than ever! We won’t give up. A big thanks to our EmpowerMed partners and our financial partners.

Even if we were finally not selected, the last words of the ceremony were dedicated to Europe and women, two main pillars of EmpowerMed 😉! Therefore more motivated than ever to apply again next year.