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ORSE: The real situation of energy poverty, unknown to state institutions

2 October 2022
Bogdan Tudorache

In Romania, the profile of vulnerable energy consumers is usually analyzed by the ministries responsible for dealing with energy poverty with insufficient reference to concrete data from the field, case studies or other details related to the living environment of these people (mountain/plain regions, rural/urban, informal housing, etc.), and generalized measures at the population level or that do not distinguish between vulnerabilities cannot produce a correct coverage of the needs of different categories of households, stress the experts of the Romanian Energy Poverty Observatory (ORSE).

For example, the fact that most poor households heat with wood is known, but the average amount of wood needed in the cold season is not. This fact meant that, in the Vulnerable Consumer Law, this aspect was not correctly reflected in the financial aid associated with households.

The vulnerable energy consumer is “the single person/family that, for reasons of health, age, insufficient income or isolation from energy sources, requires social protection measures and additional services to ensure at least their minimum energy needs,” according to Law no. 226 from September 16, 2021 regarding the establishment of social protection measures for vulnerable energy consumers.

Cooperation between institutions is sometimes difficult, especially on new and transversal topics, such as energy poverty. This leads to the declination of competences between institutions that should have an important role in dealing with energy poverty, which is one of the major causes leading to blockages and difficulties in implementing real support measures for those in need. ORSE experts signal that the ministries that have an interest in addressing energy poverty from the perspective of the just transition objective assumed by our country should facilitate cooperation on this subject through a constant and current exchange of data and information. This type of partnership should also extend to organizations from the private, non-governmental environment organizations or specialized committees in the Parliament.

Also, an integrated and systematic data collection would facilitate the decision-making process. At the moment, each institution pursues data collection in isolation from the other institutions of the state. Moreover, there is limited transparency of public policy design processes. National programs should have clear and limited objectives and tasks that can be translated into easily quantifiable actions. Currently, the directions emerging from the Vulnerable Consumer Law remain, from this point of view, still unclear and difficult to follow.

“It is important, first of all, that the institutions clearly understand the role they have on this topic and the stake of these great objectives for society: the energy transition with all its complexity, consisting of topics such as energy poverty, thermal rehabilitation, building performance, economic competitiveness, decarbonization of energy systems in general, etc. All of these are integrated, and achieving the goals of just transition requires a clear understanding of these themes and the actions that derive from them. In the case of vulnerable consumers and people who are not yet connected to a form of energy, their real situation, on the ground, is insufficiently known at the level of state institutions. At the moment we are faced with a limited knowledge of the records from the field, which leads to many stereotypes and unrealistic measures,” says Anca Sinea, vice president of the Center for the Study of Democracy Association and coordinator of ORSE.

ORSE experts believe that it is necessary to periodically publish the data collected, in reports that are easy to understand and go through by other actors in society, including public institutions with other administrative portfolios, all the more since energy poverty is a challenge that requires efforts administrative of the most diverse.

A course of action recommended by ORSE involves the development of an interministerial working committee under the coordination of a deputy prime minister, on the model of work on the implementation of the National Long-Term Renovation Strategy or on the model of the government department for Sustainable Development. With assumed leadership, these models are functional and based on intense inter- and intra-institutional cooperation. An institution with a clear leadership role would improve cooperation between all types of actors (public, private, NGOs) and streamline the decision-making process, including at the local level, providing support for data access, information transfer and implementation of programs. Moreover, actors in society could more easily understand the stakes of cooperation on topics such as energy poverty.

Another solution recommended by ORSE is the implementation of the one-stop shop – a model of cooperation between local or regional actors successfully implemented in many EU member states. The one-stop shop has information on beneficiaries, available solutions and funding at hand and provides personalized assistance to the vulnerable consumer, helping them to identify the best options to overcome their vulnerability.

Autor: Bogdan Tudorache

Active in the economic and business press for the past 26 years, Bogdan graduated Law and then attended intensive courses in Economics and Business English. He went up to the position of editor-in-chief since 2006 and has provided management and editorial policy for numerous economic publications dedicated especially to the community of foreign investors in Romania. From 2003 to 2013 he was active mainly in the financial-banking sector. He started freelancing for Energynomics in 2013, notable for his advanced knowledge of markets, business communities and a mature editorial style, both in Romanian and English.

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