ENGAGER-COST Network’s event brief on Mainstreaming Innovative Energy Poverty Metrics

With increasing Europe-wide efforts to shift towards a carbon-neutral economy, growing attention is being paid to household and transport-related energy use and their intertwined infrastructure. In the era of digital transformation, numerous opportunities arise to facilitate the shift in these sectors, ranging from novel technical solutions to the utilization of complex and large datasets. However, without careful considerations and well-crafted policies, both processes carry the risk of excluding the most vulnerable from enjoying their benefits and thus, undermining social sustainability and deepening energy poverty and inequalities.

How can existing (both transport and household) energy poverty metrics be further developed to avoid and tackle such risks? The ENGAGER-COST Network’s 5-day training school on Mainstreaming Innovative Energy Poverty Metrics aimed at laying the foundations for answering this question by gathering leading scientists and practitioners from Europe from the field of energy poverty and reviewing state-of-the-art metrology developments and real-life policy challenges. Ákos Gosztonyi, the latest addition to the University of Helsinki’s Sustainable Urban Systems research group was also selected to participate in the event. In his doctoral research, contributing to the CousCOUS project as well, Ákos will investigate the disproportionate burden of urban air pollution for different socio-economic groups and its links to energy and transport poverty in Helsinki and beyond.

During the event, experts’ opinion coincided on the importance of future metrics and digitization reflecting on the realities of diverse geographies. Moreover, the digitization of one locality should not come at the price of displacing the digital sector’s emissions and its burden to other, potentially less developed localities. Concerns were raised that the imparities of access to technological solutions may not only bring forward disparities in who can enjoy the benefits of developments, but it can also affect who and how data is collected from to inform policies and develop services; especially in light of the fact that the basic digital skill literacy in EU countries ranges between 29% and 79%. Translating these issues into further developing existing, “classic” energy poverty metrics, several future paths were identified calling for, among other things, more inclusive data collection while acknowledging the abundance of (often less compatible) datasets; involving more cross-disciplinary aspects including e.g. environmental sciences-backed air pollution data or urban studies-backed gentrification indicators; and emphasizing the multidimensionality and spatiality of energy poverty. At policy level, the participants critically evaluated for example EU National Energy and Climate Plans’ energy poverty-related sections and Stavanger, Norway’s Climate and Environmental Plan (2018-2022)’s respective sections as well.

The recordings of the training school held between April 26th and 30th 2021 are available here. Written reports and further outputs developed based on the event, incorporating both trainers’ and trainees’ inputs is available here.