Francisco Reynés: “Energy poverty is a social problem that cannot be ignored and Naturgy will continue to implement specific measures that help to reduce it”

jornada-pobreza-energetica-madrid-2019-6 Energy and environment

During the event, a study by the Chair of Energy Sustainability at Barcelona Institute of Economics-University of Barcelona was presented, which analyses energy poverty from the perspective of available income for vulnerable groups and concludes that one out of five Spanish households in this situation has one or more members who are unemployed.

The Chairman & CEO of Naturgy, Francisco Reynés, said today that the energy poverty problem is a social problem that cannot be ignored because it “has an impact on the conditions for decent human lives”. Earlier today, Francisco Reynés closed the event entitled ‘Policies and Measures against Energy Poverty’ organised by the Naturgy Foundation, at which a study entitled ‘Energy Poverty in Spain: An income-based approach’ was presented. This study was conducted by the Chair of Energy Sustainability at IEB-University of Barcelona.

Francisco Reynés stressed that, according to the study, two-thirds of vulnerable households in Spain live in properties that are more than 25 years old, meaning that “the relationship between property age and vulnerability is relevant”, he said. In this regard, he pointed out that one of the main projects being run by the Naturgy Foundation focuses on this problem. “Thanks to the Energy-related Renovations Fund that our foundation has set up, some 1,000 properties lived in by vulnerable families have already been renovated and we are going to continue our efforts in this area”, he explained.

The Chairman & CEO of Naturgy highlighted the foundation’s commitment to energy poverty and its contribution in this area. Besides the efforts made on energy-related renovations, the company chairman explained that 18,000 families have attended the Energy School and 500 company employees take part in the Naturgy Foundation Volunteering Programme, through which more than 3,000 families have been helped.

In turn, José Domínguez Abascal, State Secretary for Energy from the Ministry for the Ecological Transition, expressed gratitude for “the Naturgy Foundation’s efforts” to develop programmes capable of helping to ease energy poverty and stressed that the Government of Spain “enjoys its support and will continue to enjoy that support”.

José Domínguez Abascal described energy poverty as “a real problem that we have to tackle because there is still a significant number of people in this situation”. Among the various profiles, he underlined “single-parent families, people who live alone and the sick who depend on electrical equipment”.

Presentation of study on energy poverty by University of Barcelona

Professor María Teresa Costa-Campi, from the University of Barcelona, presented the study entitled ‘Energy Poverty in Spain: An income-based approach’. This study was conducted by the Chair of Energy Sustainability at the IEB-University of Barcelona and published by the Naturgy Foundation.

María Teresa Costa-Campi said that “energy poverty is a phenomenon tied to the disposable income available to households”, adding that “the level of education, unemployment and female gender of the main breadwinner in single-parent families or people living alone are decisive factors in energy poverty”. She went on to add that “significant differences are seen between autonomous regions of Spain, due to the different social policies in place in each one”.

María Teresa Costa-Campi said that “energy poverty should be tackled through a general social protection system” and that “in-depth reflection is needed on how to tackle the problem through cross-cutting public policies capable of acting on the main decisive factors tied to household incomes”.

The professor also called for “close collaboration between all the stakeholders involved, especially between companies in the sector and public authorities”, given that measures to improve household energy efficiency are also needed.

The data revealed by the study include the fact that 22.1% of Spanish households in a situation of energy poverty include members who are unemployed, compared with 7.1% of households where this is not the case. The likelihood of a household being in a situation of energy poverty increases by 9.3% when the main breadwinner is unemployed. According to the research, an average 8.3% of Spanish households were in a situation of energy poverty between 2011 and 2017.

An international outlook on energy poverty

The Deputy Head of the Retail Markets Unit at the Directorate-General for Energy of the European Commission, Tadhg O’Briain, congratulated Spain on the measures being developed in the field of energy poverty”. Tadhg O’Brian explained that “the European Commission wishes to help Member States share best practices and tie their energy efficiency measures and building renovation strategies to measures against energy poverty”. To that end, he announced that “a series of guidelines on energy poverty” will be published next year “in line with the Clean Energy Package”.

Shonali Pachauri, Deputy Head of the Transition to New Technologies (TNT) Programme at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), believes that assessing the energy poverty situation and understanding which options exist for resolving it within different contexts is absolutely essential. “We must have a firm and ongoing commitment from governments to implementing social support policies and policies capable of regulating the price of energy, and we need to invest in renovations”, she said. Shonali Pachauri believes there is a need to find more suitable and innovative business models that think about the end user.

Participation by the third sector in tackling energy poverty 

The event was also attended by representatives from the third sector. Antoni Bruel, General Coordinator of the Spanish Red Cross, explained the project entitled ‘Committed to People and the Environment’ that includes work with vulnerable groups to implement energy efficiency measures and help reduce the impact of energy poverty.

In turn Natalia Peiro, General Secretary of Cáritas Española, said that “there is a responsibility that requires public authorities to ensure the right to an energy supply is guaranteed through preventive and palliative regulation and public policies”.

Xavier Mauri, Managing Director of the Hàbitat3 Foundation, underlined his commitment to monitoring vulnerable households, “which could be key to seeing the impacts achieved by any measures put in place”. This is one of the challenges that he highlighted, together with reducing the burden of supply costs, investment in measures by the public authorities and explaining rights to people in a situation of energy poverty.