Energy poverty results in debt, cold homes and health problems for citizens of SEE, warn civil society organizations
(Sarajevo, October 14 2016) Energy poverty is a growing problem in the countries of South East Europe (SEE), and results in debt, cold homes and health problems, according to a new report  published by a group of civil society organizations from across the region . The report was launched yesterday at the annual Parliamentary Plenum  organized by the Energy Community in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The report gives a glimpse into the everyday life of those who are severely affected by living in energy poverty throughout SEE, which is a result of low income and disproportionally high energy costs, as well as energy inefficient homes. Energy poverty, in general terms, represents the inability of a household to secure adequate amounts of energy in the home, allowing it to keep living spaces adequately warm and well lit, to have access to a needed range of energy services, and to be able to afford a sufficient amount of energy for everyday requirements. In the research for this report, 833 households were visited in 7 SEE countries . The report highlights the overall situation in the region based on the data, and provides a review of national legislation for each country.
People who are most vulnerable to energy poverty are usually those with low income, who belong to marginalized groups (the disabled, elderly, ill) and are more likely to be affected by the consequences of energy poverty . Those affected by energy poverty live in substandard and poorly maintained dwellings, with constant draughts from poorly insulated windows and doors, damp walls with mould and dark rooms with inadequate indoor lighting. The inability to heat homes to adequate temperatures and permanent exposure to high levels of damp and mould are the main culprits for health damage among those living in energy poverty.
An extensive change in policy and practice is needed to defeat energy poverty. Lead editor of the report, Stefan Bouzarovski, director of the Collaboratory for Urban Resilience and Energy at University of Manchester, points out: “SEE’s massive energy poverty problem is not merely a social policy issue that can be resolved by short-term financial assistance or energy price interventions. It is tied to the quality of the housing stock, and as such is fundamentally about improving the energy efficiency of buildings, heating systems and appliances.” He emphasizes that addressing energy poverty requires extensive and urgent housing retrofit programmes led by the state, possibly with EU funds, but also involving the private sector.
Energy efficiency measures would reduce energy consumption while increasing the level of comfort. Improving the energy efficiency of dwellings and of household appliances, while improving the heating and ventilation systems is the most effective and sustainable approach to alleviating energy poverty. These solutions would also help mitigate the effects of climate change, that is in accordance with the Paris Agreement that most SEE countries  agreed to at COP21.
Energy poverty is a social issue requiring primarily technical energy solutions followed by financial support mechanisms. Lead author of the report, Slavica Robić from Croatian civil society organization DOOR, emphasized: “If the current trends continue and little or no efforts are directed towards using energy efficiency as a tool for preventing and tackling energy poverty, it is likely that increases in energy prices will push even more people into energy poverty. Adequate protection for vulnerable groups, as well as significant investment in energy efficiency, is necessary. It should be in the interest of SEE governments to lead in these activities, as it is the only way to provide a sustainable, healthy and economically stable future for their citizens.”
NOTES FOR EDITORS:
 Energy Poverty in South East Europe: Surviving the Cold http://seechangenetwork.org/energy-poverty-in-south-east-europe-surviving-the-cold/
 The South East Europe Sustainable Energy Policy (SEE SEP) is a programme that has 18 CSO partners from across the region (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo*, Macedonia**, Montenegro and Serbia) and the EU. The SEE SEP project aims to empower CSOs and citizens to better influence policy and practice towards a fairer, cleaner and safer energy future in SEE.
 Albania = 10, BiH = 103, Croatia = 397, Kosovo = 10, Macedonia = 206, Montenegro = 97, Serbia = 10.
 C. Snell, M. Bevan, and H. Thomson, “Justice, fuel poverty and disabled people in England,” Energy Res. Soc. Sci., vol. 10, pp. 123–132, Nov. 2015.
 Except for Kosovo, as it’s not a member of the UNFCC and therefore did not sign the Paris Agreement.
SEE Change Net
CPI (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
CZZS (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
Forum for Freedom in Education (Croatia)
Front 21/42 (Macedonia)
Green Home (Montenegro)
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Masha Durkalić, SEE Change Net Communication Officer, firstname.lastname@example.org, +387 63 999 827