November 8, 2018 - 15:10

Energy rights. The second Catalan Congress on Energy Poverty looks at the cause of the problem and analyses the state of people’s energy rights.

At the start of 2017 an estimated 17,000 people in Barcelona were having difficulty paying for their water, gas and electricity bills. Nearly two years on that figure has been cut by 30% thanks to the setting up of energy advice points and the creation of a community network in the neighbourhoods to detect energy poverty among local residents. The second Catalan Energy Poverty Congress is reflecting on the structural causes of this problem to find solutions and guarantee people’s energy rights.

The city’s energy advice points (PAE) started life in 2017 to defend people’s energy rights and reduce the number of local residents at risk of energy vulnerability.

This year the PAEs have doubled the support they provide compared to 2017 and broadened their services. These include promoting energy savings and efficiency, handling subsidies and offering advice on generating one’s own energy with solar panelling at home, as well as the steps necessary to apply for grants relating to solar energy generation and more. Awareness about energy poverty has also been strengthened by different parts of the community network in the neighbourhoods, with more information, training for associations, commerce, entities and facilities, as well as specific agreements to detect energy poverty through collaboration from the Barcelona Fire Service, primary healthcare centres (CAP) and the home help service.

To date, this pioneering service in Catalonia has:

  • Provided support for nearly 50,000 people.
  • Prevented electricity supplies from being cut off in 10,000 cases.
  • Saved a total of 110,000 euros by helping families lower the electric power rating they have contracted.

Unemployed women tenants

The main causes of energy poverty are the cost of basic supplies, the build quality of housing and the socio-economic situation people are in. According to the study ‘Municipal indicators for energy poverty in the city of Barcelona’, the most common profile (67.9%) of people suffering energy poverty corresponds to unemployed women tenants, who mainly have problems paying their electricity bills. By district, energy poverty mirrors the socio-spatial distribution of other types of poverty and inequality, meaning Ciutat Vella and the northern outskirts in Nou Barris, Horta-Guinardó and part of Sant Andreu are the areas most affected.

The second Catalan Energy Poverty Congress will spend two days examining the structural causes of this problem and the current situation of energy rights at a local and European level. The event is a space for coming together and reflecting so that social and environmental organisations, experts and representatives from different local administrations collaborate in the search for effective short and mid-term solutions.

An energy advice point has also been set up to offer advice and empower citizens in relation to their energy rights and the measures in place to reduce the cost of utilities bills.