This year’s Energy Poverty Action Week is taking place from 21 to 25 February to build momentum across Europe to demand clean, affordable energy for all.
The Right to Energy Coalition is organising a Twitter storm all week. Follow the Right to Energy Coalition on Twitter and tweet your demands, solutions, and stories from the ground using the #RightToEnergy.
The urgency of the situation, exacerbated by the gas price crisis and a growing impatience with inadequate policies, has encouraged many people to rise up against an energy system that’s failing them.
Even before the energy price crisis started making headlines, more than 50 million Europeans were already forced to choose between heating and eating.
More than just price hikes
Energy poverty is a structural inequality, founded on inefficient and unsafe housing and an unjust, profit-driven energy system. One of its root causes, inefficient housing, is linked to more than 100,000 premature deaths a year.
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 most vulnerable households.
While they are scrambling for short-term solutions, for decades now, grassroots organisations have been organising and providing relief.
Looking around Europe, very few countries have implemented adequate safeguards to prevent the buildup of energy debts and to limit disconnections, putting millions at risk as energy prices continue to skyrocket.
A case study from 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 she receives from the Catalan government would never be sufficient to absorb such an increase.
She had already experienced energy poverty during the 2008 crisis, when she lost her job and saw her energy debt exceed €1,000. So she decided to join the Alliance Against Energy Poverty (APE), a grassroots organisation 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 Catalonian parliament banned electricity disconnections for vulnerable households.
In 2021, APE led a successful campaign that freed 35,000 families of their energy debts. Their mobilisation also prompted the city of Barcelona to establish advice centres and launch a public campaign informing 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 who still manage to generate bumper profits in the midst of a human crisis.
Time to redress the balance
Research by Global Witness reveals how the biggest gas producers are raking in profits, while millions of people struggle to warm their homes and cook their food.
This clearly shows the need for an energy system that puts people and planet before profit.
Movements and solidarity initiatives are sprouting up in different forms, from trade unions demanding an end to the failed market model to emerging renewable energy communities.
It’s time to decarbonise Europe’s housing stock, free ourselves from fossil fuels, and win an energy transition for all.
First published at Euronews.com (full version)