More and more municipalities are concerned about the challenge of energy poverty and decide to take action. As a matter of fact, besides purchasing emergency aid to avoid power outages, the process of overcoming energy poverty is relatively new. At the Energy Poverty Advisory Hub (EPAH), we support 35 municipalities in the European Union by providing technical assistance to tackle energy poverty in a pragmatic way: a trio-support between the municipality, a local expert and the EPAH team provide a tailored-made assistance adapted to each local context.
Although the range of options that the municipalities could access through the first EPAH call included diagnosis, planning and the implementation of measures against energy poverty, most local governments have chosen to make a diagnosis of energy poverty in their municipality. That is, to be able to answer, with expert support, questions such as: How does energy poverty affect the population? Where is it concentrated? Who are most affected by it? What are the necessary measures to tackle it?
What are the steps followed during the technical assistance?
First, we meet a small team of representatives from the chosen municipality that is interested in receiving guidance. This team and EPAH establish collaboratively the specific objectives of the technical assistance during their first working sessions. We answer to questions such as: What exactly does the municipality need to achieve? How do they want to handle the process? How will the results be used? Once the needs and limits have been identified, and thus, the scope has been defined, EPAH suggests an expert organisation that will be able to successfully carry out the task.
If the local government agrees with this proposal, the technical assistance process begins. The first challenge is to jointly develop a work plan. Local governments sometimes commission studies that are unfortunately put away in a drawer. To avoid this undesirable scenario, EPAH's technical assistance process begins with a scoping meeting where we establish the desired results, the work schedule, and the assigned resources. The methodology is also disclosed, and the work plan is agreed with the respective commitments. During this process, it is important that the Social Services Department of the municipality is involved in the team. This delegation is best to include the municipal workers who are usually more aware of the people at risk or in vulnerable situations in the city and have direct contact with them.
Once the work plan has been established, we often have an expert who likely is not familiar with the specific case of the municipality but is eager for information, as well as, conversely, a team of local technicians that are eager to make good use of the help, without really knowing how to contribute. If the technical assistance received is related to the diagnosis phase of energy poverty, experts design the study methodology and it is advisable that they propose tasks, such as collecting a part of the statistics or designing questionnaires.
The second challenge is obtaining the necessary information in a format that allows its analysis. The expert asks for a lot of data: reports directly or indirectly related to the matter at hand (the state of the homes, inequalities in the municipality, to social housing aids, energy aids, implemented actions, campaigns, energy consumption data, income etc.) and a snapshot of energy poverty that is closer to reality. These data are mostly useful when they are disaggregated by criteria that allows to analyse this complex phenomenon (by gender, by neighbourhood, by street).
Technicians, despite their willingness to collaborate, don’t always have access to these data. Therefore, the next challenge is to obtain information from its respective departments. This is often more complicated than it might seem either because communication between local departments is not always as it should be, or because the data format doesn’t allow its disaggregation. However, the more information is provided, and the more detailed it is, the higher the quality of the snapshot.
At the same time, it is advisable to involve all the municipal departments that may directly or indirectly influence both the diagnosis and the planning of activities. Thus, it is very useful that Social Services collaborates with Urbanism, Housing, Environment, Energy, and other available departments. Although municipalities are the agents that lead the process, it is important that civil society organisations are involved to raise awareness about energy poverty in the local context.
Energy poverty is a phenomenon that affects society, and thus is not limited to a specific group or neighbourhood. Vulnerable people affected by it don’t always turn to Social Services to ask for help. Many associations may provide solutions and enrich the approach to this challenge, so that policies and measures are adjusted to the needs of the local population.
The awarded municipalities of the first call for technical assistance have finalised their work plan and are now receiving expert support on various activities to tackle energy poverty according to their local context and challenges. Discover all the 24 projects and the numerous actions local governments across Europe are developing.
Cities will have the chance to apply for the 2nd call for technical assistance as of early March through the EPAH website. To stay updated and not miss information sessions and deadlines for our second call, check our website regularly, follow us on Twitter and subscribe to our newsletter.
- Publication date
- 31 January 2023
- Directorate-General for Energy