21 May, 2019

Keeping the lights on: Which EU countries are taking action on energy poverty?

Momentum is higher than ever for bold action to halt climate breakdown. As students, grassroots groups, and the yellow vest movement call for a radical redesign of our energy system to jointly take on climate change and inequality, new EU energy laws have included action on energy poverty, highlighting opportunities for progress and setting new requirements.

EU countries must now take into account energy poverty in their building renovation strategies, target homes in energy poverty in annual energy savings measures, and assess the number of households living in energy poverty. Legislation also recognises the role of community energy in reducing energy poverty. Additionally, if governments acknowledge a “significant” rate of energy poverty nationally, they must set in motion action plans to tackle the issue.

December 2018 was the first test of member states’ willingness to embrace these new opportunities, with the submission of draft National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs), where countries outlined policies and measures to take on climate change.


The results are in and they show us there is still a long way to go. Although many member states recognise the need for action, Greece is the only country to make new significant commitments to tackle energy poverty. In general, little attention is given to addressing the issue of disconnections, in a context where 7 million Europeans receive notices each year[1], putting them at risk of being cut off of basic needs such as heating, cooling or light. A majority of member states do not mention the role of energy communities. Energy efficiency targets are a crucial indication of ambition to massively renovate homes to make them warm and decent for all, but the 2030 target will likely not be met[2]. Finally, only one member state, Greece, announces a numerical objective to reduce energy poverty. Governments have failed to embrace the opportunity to jointly tackle climate change, cut energy bills, create green jobs, and ensure social justice.

***Read the analysis here***

The Right to Energy coalition, bringing together trade unions, social organisations, health and environmental groups has been campaigning for two years to achieve progress in EU policy, in a situation of both environmental and social urgency. We call on governments to:

  • Provide immediate support to households: enforce the right to energy by banning disconnections and provide families in need with financial support;
  • Eradicate indecent housing: launch massive home renovation programmes to ensure everyone is provided a decent home, cut energy bills and CO2 emissions;
  • Recognise the role of energy communities in reducing energy poverty. Governments must ensure conditions are in place to allow these projects to flourish.


This briefing has been written in collaboration with Društvo za oblikovanje održivog razvoja (DOOR), Greenpeace Greece, Friends of the Earth Slovenia, CLER (France), ZERO (Portugal), Friends of the Earth Hungary, RWADE, Heinrich Boll Greece. NECPs analysed were versions submitted to the EU Commission. The energy poverty rate is based on the 2019 Open Exp report putting forth a composite domestic energy poverty index. The level of the energy efficiency target is assessed based on analysis from the Coalition for Energy Savings.

Further reading


[1] ACER Market Monitoring Report 2015

[2] Coalition for Energy Savings – Analysis of NECPs