Earlier this month I had the opportunity to attend the kick-off meeting of the European Energy Research Alliance’s Joint Programme on the Economic, Environmental and Social Impacts of Energy Policies and Technologies, held in San Sebastian, Spain. The meeting gave me the chance to speak, via a keynote lecture, about the research and policy issues that are raised by a more comprehensive understanding of energy vulnerability in the Eastern and Central European context. The new Joint Programme is a pioneering effort within the European academic landscape, not the least due to its explicit focus on social science issues in the context of energy scholarship. To see a clear engagement with energy poverty and vulnerability within a forum like this is certainly most encouraging.
I also spoke about energy poverty and vulnerability at a Brussels meeting of the Vulnerable Consumer Working Group (VCWG): A collaborative effort between two Commission services (the Directorate General for Energy and the Directorate General for Health and Consumers) aimed at working together closely with the CEF in supporting the implementation of the Third Energy Package. The institutional setup of this body has allowed for the EC to work closely with consumer associations (such as BEUC – the European Consumer Organization), public bodies/institutions (the Council of European Energy Regulators, Ministries, Ombudsmen), industry (Eurogas, Eureletric) and academia in influencing the European agenda on issues such as consumer protection and energy poverty. Its discussions have offered the opportunity for many of these actors to present their views about the EC’s and MS’s adoption of EU energy legislation in the domain of consumer vulnerability to energy price increases and market liberalization. Attending the meeting helped forge a stronger link between the work done by VCWG and the outcomes of the EVALUATE project.
Vulnerabilty was also a key theme of this year’s CRESC Annual Conference, where I presented a paper titled ‘Alternative urbanisms in everyday life: Transforming the post-communist city from within’ as part of the session named ‘Going with the flow (and, sometimes, against Iit): Rethinking flexibility, precarity, and vulnerability from a postsocialist perspective’. Papers at this session, and the conference more generally, helped highlight the multiple and often contested underpinnings of the ‘vulnerability’ framework – both as an explanatory concept, and a starting point for policy making.