In the 2030 framework of the Covenant of Mayors in Europe, alongside with taking action on mitigating climate change and adapting to its unavoidable effects, signatories commit to providing access to secure, sustainable and affordable energy for all. In the European context this means taking action to alleviate energy poverty. By alleviating energy poverty, Covenant signatories can enhance the quality of life of their citizens and create a more just and inclusive society.
What is energy poverty?
Energy poverty can be defined as
“a situation where a household or an individual is unable to afford basic energy services (heating, cooling, lighting, mobility and power) to guarantee a decent standard of living due to a combination of low income, high energy expenditure and low energy efficiency of their homes”.
European Commission, Citizens’ Energy Forum 2016
In practical terms this means that vulnerable citizens either do not have access to energy services or making use of these energy services undermines their possibility to access other basic services. Being affected by energy poverty can have severe implications on the health, wellbeing, social inclusion and quality of life. Energy poor households experience inadequate levels of some essential energy services, e.g. lighting, heating/cooling, use of appliances, transport and many others. For this reason, energy poverty has to be taken into account in many policy areas - including social, economic and, of course, climate and environment policies.
The energy poverty challenge in Europe
Energy poverty is a complex issue and both estimating the current level of energy poverty in European municipalities and the impacts on citizens’ life are not easy tasks. It is estimated that 1 out of 10 citizens is affected by energy poverty. Figures show that in Europe:
57 million people  cannot keep their homes warm during winter
104 million people  cannot keep their homes comfortable during summer
52 million people  face delays in paying their energy bills
10 million people  need to walk more than 30 minutes to access to public transport facilities.
Awareness of energy poverty is rising in Europe and has been identified as a policy priority by a number of EU institutions, most notably in the European Commission’s 'Clean Energy for All Europeans' legislative package. As part of the European Commission’s effort to address energy poverty across EU countries the EU Energy Poverty Observatory (EPOV) was created in 2018. The EPOV exists to improve the measuring, monitoring and sharing of knowledge and best practice on energy poverty. More info about EPOV can be found here.
The Energy Poverty Advisory Hub (EPAH) is the leading EU initiative aiming to eradicate energy poverty and accelerate the just energy transition of European regions, cities, towns and villages. Their website aims to become the centre of energy poverty expertise in EU for local authorities and all stakeholders interested in taking action to combat energy poverty.
- "Alleviating energy poverty: Useful resources", by the Covenant of Mayors - Europe Office
- Covenant of Mayors two-pager on energy poverty