Sustainable Prosperity for Europe

Energy Poverty

EU Energy Poverty Observatory

More than 50 million households in the European Union are struggling to attain adequate warmth, pay their utility bills on time and live in homes free of damp and mould. Awareness of energy poverty is rising in Europe and has been identified as a policy priority by a number of EU institutions, most notably in the European Commission’s legislative Package “Clean Energy for All Europeans”.

The creation of an Energy Poverty Observatory (EPOV) is part of the EU’s efforts to address energy poverty across EU countries. The Observatory aims to provide a user-friendly and open-access resource that will promote public engagement on the issue of energy poverty, disseminate information and good practice, facilitate knowledge sharing among stakeholders, as well as support informed decision making at local, national and EU level. The Observatory is supported by the European Commission and is being developed by a consortium led by the University of Manchester and includes, as core partners, Ecofys, National Energy Action, the European Policy Centre, Intrasoft International and the Wuppertal Institut

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Energy Poverty Task Force

KBFSchneider Electric Foundation




Energy poverty is defined as a situation where individuals or households are unable to adequately heat or provide other essential energy services to their homes at affordable cost. Energy poverty impacts people’s quality of life leading to possible health problems and at worst scenario even social exclusion. Reasons for energy poverty are manifold and include mounting inequalities, income poverty, unemployment, inefficient housing, wasteful use of energy, prices, access, and lack of clarity about pricing.

Energy poverty is a dimension of the poverty challenge in Europe, where nearly 11% of the EU's population are not able to adequately heat their homes at an affordable cost. The tools for addressing the challenge on a national or regional level can vary from direct financial interventions to promoting energy efficiency and enhancing consumer awareness with price comparisons and transparent billing, however, more could be done to help the vulnerable consumers.

Identifying vulnerable consumers and putting measures in place to tackle energy poverty lie mainly with national or local authorities. However, the EU also has a role to play and instruments it can use, in line with the EU’s Energy Union objective to benefit the European consumer. For example, completing an internal energy market could help to tackle the issue by increasing competition, leading to lower energy prices and better services at lower cost. Another area for action are efforts to improve energy efficiency across the EU – the cheapest energy being the one not consumed.

Other instruments include collecting data, monitoring the situation, proposing measures to tackle poverty and energy efficiency, and using energy regulation and financial instruments. What more could/should the EU do to address energy poverty across the EU?


Relying on the support of the Schneider Electric Foundation and the King Baudouin Foundation, the EPC launched a Task Force aiming to share experiences and best practices across the EU, evaluate the state of play of diverse policies that can help to tackle energy poverty, and explore what additional role the EU could play in helping to address the challenge. The work of the Task Force comprised a series of meetings in 2016 and 2017. The results of the discussions and policy recommendations presented in a Policy Brief were disseminated widely to policy-makers in Europe.

The Energy Poverty Task Force is an integral part of the EPC’s Social Europe & Well-being and Sustainable Prosperity for Europe Programmes. For further information, as well as to participate and support this initiative, please contact Marco Giuli at

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