6 December, 2021

Stories from the front lines: “I spent my entire income on energy bills”

Adomas lives with his parents in a 30 year old apartment building. In Lithuania, many of these buildings aren’t safe to live in. Residents face dangerous electrical systems — “ticking time bombs” — cracks appearing on walls and balconies, broken elevators, leaky roofs and mould. Often, buildings are drafty and uninsulated, making them impossible to heat and leading to huge energy bills. During the winter of 2021, some residents in Adomas’ apartment block spent their entire income on energy bills.

Public awareness and community building are crucial to make renovations happen. Adomas and his family started to talk to residents about renovating the building. In the beginning discussions were challenging, but regular weekly meetings enabled the neighbours to discuss their issues and agree on a plan to insulate the building and install new heating systems. The potential was huge: construction work could be an opportunity to fix broken balconies and unsafe elevators.

Many obstacles stand in the way of their plans. Aligning residents takes time, there is a lack of reliable information, and private companies that manage buildings can block initiatives, and prevent residents from complaining or proposing solutions.

Adomas is convinced that strengthening his community is key to setting their plans in motion, but he also calls for more government support for those who need it most, so everyone can live in safe, decent homes.

In Lithuania, one in 4 people cannot heat their home adequately in the winter. Across Europe, 50 million people live in indecent housing, pushing families to either turn off the heating or pay exorbitant bills. Skyrocketing energy prices are putting millions more at risk. The Right to Energy coalition demands massive renovation programmes to provide warm homes for all and slash our energy consumption including specific support for the most vulnerable households.