The opinions expressed in View Articles are the sole responsibility of the authors.
Hundreds of organizations, grassroots activists and legislators will gather next week at the Right to Energy Forum, the largest annual event on energy poverty in Europe, to collect ideas, share experiences and find ways to eradicate one of the most pressing problems of this year.
The urgency of the situation, exacerbated by the gas price crisis and a growing impatience with inappropriate policies, has encouraged many people to rebel against an energy system that is failing them.
Europe is facing a ‘winter of disconnections’: the worst ever recorded. But even before the energy price crisis started making headlines, more than 50 million Europeans they were already forced to choose between heating and eating.
More than price increases
Energy poverty is a structural inequality, based on inefficient and unsafe housing and an unfair and lucrative energy system. One of its root causes, inefficient housing, is linked to more than 100,000 premature deaths a year.
Only in France 12 million people They live in inefficient and unsafe housing. One in four households across Europe they struggle to adequately light, heat or cool their homes.
This winter’s gas price crisis has put energy poverty in the spotlight, but EU leaders have been unable to agree on a response and have so far only offered temporary income support for the poorest households. vulnerable.
As they struggle to find short-term solutions, grassroots organizations have been organizing and helping for decades.
Looking around Europe, too few countries have put in place adequate safeguards to prevent the build-up of energy debts and limit disconnections, putting millions of people at risk as energy prices continue to skyrocket.
A case study of Catalonia
Cristina, who lives near Barcelona with her three daughters, saw her electricity bill more than double in a matter of months. The basic income it receives from the Catalan government would never be enough to absorb such an increase.
He had already experienced energy poverty during the 2008 crisis, when he lost his job and saw that his energy debt exceeded €1,000. So he decided to join the Alliance Against Energy Poverty (APE), a grassroots organization challenging the dominant energy system and addressing the root causes of energy poverty.
APE’s work has been incredibly successful and led to substantial political change in 2015 when the Catalan parliament forbidden electrical disconnections for vulnerable households.
In 2021, APE led a successful campaign that freed 35,000 families from their energy debts. Their mobilization also led the city of Barcelona to establish counseling centers and launch a public campaign to inform people of their rights.
Catalonia exemplifies how we can collectively ensure that the right to energy becomes a human right across Europe and challenge energy companies that still manage to generate windfall profits in the midst of a human crisis.
It’s time to restore the balance
Global Witness Research reveals how the biggest gas producers are racking up profits, while millions of people struggle to heat their homes and cook their food, trapped in a toxic combination of dependence on fossil fuels and corporate greed that is failing everyone except the giants of the fossil fuels and their sponsors.
The contrast between our ‘winter of disconnections’ and the record profits being generated by Europe’s volatile prices clearly shows the need for an energy system that puts people and planet before profit.
Solidarity movements and initiatives are emerging in different forms, from unions demanding an end to the failed market model to emerging renewable energy communities.
This could be a tremendous year for energy efficiency and the move away from fossil fuels, to provide renewable and deep renovation programs that will enable energy poor households to reduce their energy bills and carbon emissions. The EU promised a Green Deal that left no one behind, but it is not delivering anywhere near its promised rhetoric.
As movements mobilize and gain momentum during Europe’s biggest energy crisis to date, the Right to Energy Forum provides a space for grassroots organisers, activists, service providers and anyone interested in the topic come together, share skills and experiences, and explore opportunities to influence policy. making.
It is time to decarbonize Europe’s homes, free ourselves from fossil fuels and win an energy transition for all.
Kieran Pradeep is an energy and climate justice campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe and coordinator of the Right to Energy Coalition.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism