How can Europe boost energy efficiency in all homes? Europe’s buildings are responsible for roughly 40% of the EU’s energy consumption and 36% of its CO2 emissions. Investing in energy-saving technologies such as smart meters, better performing materials (including next generation insulation) and digital tools can help consumers better control their energy consumption. However, even if these technologies may ultimately end up saving money over the long-run, they may nevertheless require upfront investment that puts them out of reach for families on lower incomes. Should governments step in with grants and subsidies?

What do our readers think? We had a comment come in from Pamela suggesting that energy-saving technologies should be given to poorer families for free.

To get a reaction, we put her comment to Dr Catherine Butler, Senior Lecturer in Human Geography at the University of Exeter. How would she respond to Pamela?

For another perspective, we put the same comment to Bent Madsen, President of Housing Europe, the European Federation of Public, Cooperative and Social Housing. What would he say?

We also put Pamela’s comment to Monica Frassoni, former Green MEP and currently President of the European Alliance to Save Energy (UE-ASE). What would she say to Pamela?

Next up, we had a comment from Wasim, who thinks the idea of giving energy-saving technologies away for free is crazy because no government can afford such a huge investment. Is he right?

What would Dr Catherine Butler from the University of Exeter say?

How would Bent Madsen from Housing Europe respond?

Finally, how would Monica Frassoni from the European Alliance to Save Energy react to the idea that governments cannot afford the kind of housebuilding and renovation programme she advocates?

Should poor families be given energy-saving technologies for free? Can governments afford it? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: BigStock – (c) Daisy Daisy
This debate is part of the ENERGY-SHIFTS project. By participating you are confirming you are 18+. Contributions to the debate may be directly quoted (anonymously) in the ENERGY-SHIFTS reports. If you do not want your contribution to be used, send us an email within two weeks of posting your comment.
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 826025.


18 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    rafal

    of course, the government can afford it. They spend a lot of money for many other things like supporting catholic church in Poland for instance..It is rather the issue of priorities. however, energy -saving technology could be a trap, what we need is changing the social practices.

  2. avatar
    EU Reform Proactive

    The definition, degree & measure of “poverty”= “poorness” & “poor families” differs around the world, in Europe & the EU27.

    It is confusing & disturbing when professionals comment & “generally” deliberate over “poor people & families” in the EU without first giving a benchmark what “poorness” means in the EU27, Europe or globally. Because poverty differs & is relative.

    Why not focus & limit an obvious DE/EU debate on “EU27 poverty & its alleviations?

    Why go & hack away & advise on available “technologies” and the various expensive installations of renewable energies for EU homes to lower CO2- when some poor families struggle to provide their daily meals & cover basic expenses?

    Most building or homes are not owned but rented by poor(er) families- or suggest what EU member governments should & need to do- e.g. upgrade “social housing” to more energy-efficient units.

    Why not ALL- the “poor, middle income & and the comfortable living EU families”?

    Again, the “push” (advice?) comes from the EC, the finances from commercial banks, ECB & IMF!

    Back is the toxic ghost of the “Troika”- who pressures to act “humanly” to borrow and drive up the debt to GDP ratio of all nations! Nothing new by now!

    https://www.euronews.com/2019/08/19/what-does-it-mean-to-be-poor-in-europe-today-watch-euronews-special-coverage

    https://data.oecd.org/inequality/poverty-rate.htm

    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/328718886_European_Union_Definition_of_Poverty

    “Poor families” have neither the authority nor a choice to choose or implement the different “technologies”. To catch up & get informed about the latest “Hi-tech” is available for free to everyone interested. Many are not! The purchase of products like heat pumps, PV solar etc. is neither cheap nor free.

    Modernising & “Energy proofing” of old or older buildings is expensive. To wear warm(er) clothing or use a hot water bottle when cold was always a preferred & alternative option in the past!

  3. avatar
    Nesta

    Pay them properly. Full employment by underpayment is not better than unemployment.

  4. avatar
    Rene

    Admitting that there are still poor people at all is an embarrassing policy. Start with an Unconditional Basic Income for Everyone NOW !

  5. avatar
    Frans

    It is in the interest of everybody!

  6. avatar
    rafał

    Popieram. To wpłynie nie tylko na byt tych rodzin, ale też na zmniejszenie zanieczyszczenia środowiska.

  7. avatar
    JJ

    In my opinion government can’t afford, we have a lot of other issues that need to be taken care of immediately. Bringing in consideration the pandemic and the economic crisis, that is happening in front of our eyes the government should focus on supporting the healthcare sector and smaller businesses. The priority shouldn’t be given to the energy-saving technologies.

  8. avatar
    Julia

    In my opinion the government should definitely subsidize investments in energy saving technologies, especially if they are hoping to be succesful. Unfortunately, regular customers may support these technologies, but will never invest their own money into them. People will say the right things but will only act upon them if it doesn’t cost them money. Currently, especially in our country, people will use litteraly anything to heat their homes, regardless of what harm they do to environment. The government should invest upfront, and get reimbursed by the customer over the years.

    • avatar
      Adam

      I agree, with the last sentence – if the technology can make the cost of energy cheaper for individuals – it should be treaten as a investition, so there was not be a extra mony for these families to instal that, should be given any kind of long-term credit for purchasing these appliances.

  9. avatar
    Zofia

    Investment in housing seems reasonable enough. Giving away free energy-saving technologies on the other hand seems like a short term solution for a long term problem.

  10. avatar
    Anna

    I generally agree with Dr C. Butler. It is always the issue of priorities; but I am not fully convinced that government can afford such an investment; and first off all, many things depends from a knowledge and social practices…so the first step is a change of awareness; education in the field of energy-saving technologies..

  11. avatar
    Adam

    It depends what we mean – whether to help poor families or to reduce energy consumption. Poor families do not seem to be the ones that spend the most on energy, so savings may be small here. If such devices are installed, they should only be partially refunded, part of expences should be paid by families as a investition for future

  12. avatar
    Greg

    It depends what we mean – whether to help poor families or to reduce energy consumption. Poor families do not seem to be the ones that spend the most on energy, so savings may be small here. If such devices are installed, they should only for that people who want to pay for that. Government should give any kind of long term credit for poor families to be easier to purchase that. It is different things than with changing the furnaces, becouse after the furnaces changing the expenses of using will incrise. In case of applinces to reduce energy, the reduction I hope mean also reduction of cost of energy for individuals, so it is investition for household rather, so no refundation should be given. But government should think also about instaling some devices in new social houses, in social space. In Poland some housing association instaled solars on the roof of building to reduce the common cost of using other common appliances, not for indyvidual and it is good direction

  13. avatar
    Jakub

    First of all, it is necessary to evaluate what are the costs of maintenance of Passive Houses – would a low-income family (please, do NOT call them “poor people”, it is unprofessional and implies, that the problem consists only of financial issues) be able to maintain modern technology, that requires continuous conservation and knowledge of how to properly use it? I do not think so considering not being able to maintain a regular household, that usually is neglected. Reducing energy usage is an alarming issue, however, it cannot be resolved as long as social aspects of the low-income population are not resolved. On top of that, such families have to learn how to manage their current resources sustainably before giving them access to technology, that already relies on a sustainable lifestyle. Free distribution is never the right answer if we do not consider underlying problems.

  14. avatar
    Krzysztof

    I agree with that statement. If we want to stop climate changes, we need a national plan and wisely use public funds. Without the help of the government, many families won’t be able to change technology for more environment-friendly as it might seem too expensive.

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