|An EU Social Energy Target - a lightbulb moment?|
The 2020 targets seek to improve energy efficiency by 20%, achieve 20% renewable energy as a percentage of total energy and reduce carbon emissions by 20%. Across the member states different policies have been established to achieve these targets. In the UK much of the funding to help us reach our share of the target comes from energy companies so we all effectively pay for it through our fuel bills. Policies in the UK such as the Energy Company Obligation and the Feed In Tariff are paid for through a levy on our fuel bills. though the vast majority of rises in energy bills are nothing to do with 'green taxes'. This still doesn't stop climate change deniers and the Daily Mail (as if they were different in some way!) attributing energy bill price hikes seemingly exclusively as a result of 'green taxes'. Nethertheless it is important to ensure those on the lowest incomes are the ones who benefit most from environmental taxes to ensure fairness is a fundamental consideration when seeking to address environmental concerns. This is where the concept of a Social Energy Target came from.
So what is an EU Social Energy Target? The EU is currently considering the 2030 successors to the 2020 renewables, carbon and energy efficiency targets. There is now an opportunity to develop a complementary target which not only seeks to reduce fuel poverty but also encourages this aim to work in harmony with environmental targets. If this can be achieved the assertion that environmental and social targets are incompatible can be not only challenged but also demonstrably disproved.
What might a target look like and how might it operate? The UK did have a target of eradicating fuel poverty completely by 2016. With rises in fuel prices, cuts in income and frankly utterly inadequate policies to address the energy efficiency of homes this is simply not going to be achieved. There is a clear need to develop a realisable plan to ensure affordable warmth and an end to fuel poverty. This may result in policies that encourage the installation of solar panels, such as the feed in tariff being directed to those on lower incomes OR incentivise government to direct more of the £1.3 billion/year Energy Company Obligation funding to be directed to people in fuel poverty.
The other benefits of the Social Energy Target could be less cold related illnesses, more jobs in the energy efficiency sector. This has got to be worth pursuing and progressing. I'll keep you posted!