A meeting too place this week of the European Committee of the Regions in the framework of the European Week of Regions and Cities. On the agenda included items on energy efficiency and more specifically city heating.

The EU Reporter reports that almost 11% of the EU’s population is unable to adequately heat their homes at an affordable cost, and much of the focus of the discussion was on protecting the most vulnerable sectors of society coming under that statistic.
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A member of the cabinet of European Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovic highlighted that there is no one single model to tackle energy poverty, but that each city should adapt to the local context. Still, reducing households’ energy consumption remains the most efficient way to protect vulnerable consumers.

Mayors and elected representatives of regional authorities in Eastern Europe explained how they support owners to renovate buildings and tenants to buy more energy efficient devices. The Vice-Chairman of the Kosice self-governing region in Slovakia, Istvan Zacharias, said the best way to reach out to the most-deprived households remains to give them direct budget support to pay their energy bills.

Many cities are also tackling energy poverty through local energy generation and district heating, as both facilitate access to energy. New business models such as local energy cooperatives empower citizens and provide more affordable energy solutions to their members, as shown by the example of Energiris in Brussels, or by collaborative windfarms in the county of Cork, Ireland.

“It takes a lot of education, but it is worth raising awareness. Getting communities to participate into projects is the best way to make them successful in the long run,” said  Cork councillor Alan Coleman.

Local politicians also pointed out challenges faced on the ground, and discussed the type of support needed from the EU. The Covenant of Mayors community was highlighted as a way to spread the word and upscale local solutions developed to fight energy poverty.