Energy Poverty and Management Models in the Water and Energy Sectors: Towards the Universal Right to Guaranteed Basic Supplies
The research critically analyzes some of the measures applied in different Member States and points out the lines of action for an urgent and comprehensive change in how these models deal with energy poverty.
In recent years we have seen how social awareness (and alarm) about energy poverty has grown significantly, almost as fast as the population affected by this situation. In Spain, however, it seems that it has barely landed on this issue. Although in the European Union there are Member States that have been applying palliative measures for years, here there is still no marked path or in-depth analysis to decide on actions to be taken against energy poverty. In Catalonia, there is Law 24/2015, the result of a citizen’s legislative initiative, which protects against indiscriminate disconnections and provides measures to write off the indebtedness of families in a vulnerable situation. There negotiations between administration and big utility companies are still ongoing, and show us the importance of the property and model of management of this basic supplies, because privatization is making it difficult for institutions to draw the red lines for water and energy companies that search for profit over guaranteeing Human Rights.
In this context, the research presented by ESF allows us to know other laws and measures that are applied in the face of the urgency of energy poverty across the EU: some more focused on energy efficiency (such as Eastern European countries ), others in the protection against supply cuts (as in the case of France), or in the application of discounts and social tariffs (such as the recently approved tariff in Portugal). Among these different examples, the study also detects approaches and policies that can become patchy, or even perpetuators of situations of inequality (as is the case with prepaid meters in the UK or solidarity funds paid for with public funds), far from becoming answers to the problem from a social justice perspective.
The research explains how the scope of this problem, and the ways in which it can be combated, have to do with basic service management models. So the goal is not so much to extrapolate recipes automatically, but to learn from what has had a positive or negative impact, where and why, so as not to make mistakes already detected. The aim of environmental and social organizations defending the right to water and energy is going to be, in the coming years, to point at the gaps where it has not yet been arrived, even when we are able to stop disconnections. For instance, aspects related to the same opacity of some of these water and energy management models in a liberalised market, the lack of real participation and co-governance. In this sense, the lines of action for an urgent change in how these models address energy poverty are pointed out, in order to finally achieve a true guarantee in the universal right to basic supplies, where all dimensions are taken into account (access and affordability, but also information, transparency and the right to decide over them, from communities, workers and civil society groups).