Last week, I had the pleasure of opening the 1st Catalan Congress on Energy Poverty with a keynote presentation entitled ‘Fuel poverty: a common problem across the EU’. The Congress was held in Sabadell between 3rd-4th November, and had around 400 attendees from across industry, activist groups, local government, and academia. During my presentation I started by talking about how I got involved with the energy poverty field 7 years ago as a project management intern at an energy service company, and seeing the huge difference energy efficiency and renewable energy measures made to people’s lives. Next I talked about my earlier masters and PhD research on energy poverty policy and statistical indicators. Thereafter, my talk looked at the EU Fuel Poverty Network and how it has expanded rapidly since 2011 to become one of the leading networking websites for fuel poverty. The subsequent slides introduced the EVALUATE project and presented a selection of our research findings. The closing section of my talk considered the ‘missing links’ in tackling energy poverty, in terms of collaboration, research, and decision-making.
Across the two days, numerous parallel sessions and round table events were held featuring a range of diverse speakers, including four speakers from our recent early career researcher symposium held in Manchester. From these deliberations, two key issues were often discussed: firstly the difference between unregulated free electricity supply traders and regulated traders (who have to follow public service obligations) in Spain, and secondly, the decision by the Spanish Constitutional Court to suspend Catalonia’s energy poverty decree, a law that was established in 2013 to prevent household gas and electricity being cut off by energy suppliers during winter months. It was very evident that protection for energy poor and vulnerable consumers in Catalonia and Spain as a whole is bound up with broader political tensions and political manoeuvring. Within this context it was encouraging to see several high profile mayors, including Barcelona’s Ada Colau, give declarations on their commitment to addressing energy poverty.
Congratulations to Ecoserveis and partners for hosting such a successful event, hopefully it will become a regular fixture in future years and provide a catalyst for other large mixed stakeholder events elsewhere in Spain. For further information about the Congress see www.congrespobresaenergetica.cat and @CongresPE