On 12 June 2023, BECoop, DECIDE, POWERPOOR and W4RES organised the webinar “Supporting energy communities in tackling energy poverty and gender inequality: skill up!”, registered as a Sustainable Energy Day under this year’s European Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW).
Eleni Kanellou (NTUA), coordinator of the POWERPOOR project, introduced the webinar and asked a question to the audience: “What are the most important skills to be developed to reach a just energy transition?”. You can find below the answers from the audience:
Véronique Marx (DG ENER, European Commission) presented the EU legal framework on energy poverty and current funding opportunities, especially for local initiatives.
How to support vulnerable consumers and tackle energy poverty
The first panel, focusing on energy poverty and energy-poor citizens, started with a video of a Polish homeless centre in Slupsk and showed how it contributes to the clean energy transition. This initiative is a result of the SCORE project that aims at empowering those that live on the margin of society to contribute to the energy transition. Agnieszka Filipiak explained that the project in Poland allows the homeless living in the building to become co-owners of renewable energy sources and prosumers.
Anamari Majdandzic from DOOR provided an example from Croatia: the government has launched a new programme for targeting multiple apartment buildings under the special government care, targeting energy-poor households. Another LIFE programme will also reach vulnerable consumers. There is a need for the government and cities to increase awareness of these initiatives in order to increase government trust, which is currently lacking.
Aitor Ossa Rissanen from GOIENER insisted on the importance of having a broader perspective of vulnerability. Considering and supporting energy cooperatives and communities is also essential. Resources are needed, especially in the process of the creation of energy communities. Skills and languages are also important to engage with vulnerable citizens.
Giulia Torri from Km0 gave additional examples of work with small villages and municipalities. The project tried to make sure vulnerable consumers don’t need to pay additional taxes to use energy. Trust of the municipalities and being part of a small group are other important factors.
Finally, Véronique Marx (DG ENER, EC) insisted on the importance of implementing a legal framework to be translated at local levels. Policy makers and municipalities must develop skills that will help them understand the different layers of energy poverty through collaboration and a joint approach.
How to make energy communities and initiatives more inclusive
The second panel focusing on women in the energy transition was introduced by a presentation from Katharina Habersbrunner (WECF) who highlighted gender just communities and gender justice, barriers faced by energy communities, and gender tools developed as part of the W4RES project. A testimonial from Ifigeneia Theodoridou followed her presentation.
Sonja Klingert (University of Mannheim), involved in the DECIDE and RENergetic projects, insisted on capacity building to let vulnerable people and women know what their options are. Communication needs to be based on role models and social norms. The building of trust and the creation of safe spaces is essential for women to feel more included and integrated. Telephone calls should be supplemented with traditional communication schemes and anonymity should be reduced.
Monika Bucha (Kelso Institute Europe), involved in the SCORE project, insisted on the gender gap in research. She also presented two examples of women working at Politecnico di Torino (PoliTO), who managed to improve gender equality internally.
Finally, Alice Corovessi, Managing Director at INZEB, emphasised the need to improve access to skills, skilled jobs and collaboration to support women. Women, vulnerable people, and consumers need to be educated on energy initiatives and communities. Education and knowledge transfer are other essential elements.
At the end of the second panel, the speakers took some time to answer the audience’s questions.
Eleni Kanellou summarised the session and focused on the importance of the following points:
- Raising awareness
- Enhancing trust and knowledge
- Ensuring inclusiveness
- Targeting vulnerable people and engaging with them, not only online but also on-site
- Presenting local heroes and role models