The energy crisis is sweeping across Europe, threatening to make energy prices inaccessible to many. Already today, between 50 to 125 million people are unable to keep their homes adequately warm. Now, over 80 million people are at risk of losing access to affordable energy.
This is the result of our continued dependence on an increasingly expensive and insecure resource: fossil fuels. Despite being subsidised by the public, fossil fuel companies like Shell and BP have amassed 40bn this year from the soaring price of petrol and gas. 'Fossilflation' means high prices for us, high profits for them.
People shouldn't have to pay for the energy crisis. As Greens, we promote a just and sustainable transition which addresses social injustices and inequalities. Fighting the climate crisis must be accompanied by serious and long-term reforms of our social policies.
We are fighting to improve energy access because we believe everyone has a right to energy. Greens in Government are tackling the energy crisis in Austria, Belgium, Germany and Ireland, to name a few – providing direct help as well as long term policy solutions.
Everyone has the right to energy!
With innovative social policies, we can tackle the energy crisis and at the same time contribute to a transition to cleaner and more stable energy sources. Green politicians are guaranteeing households access to energy through innovative social policies that prioritise our right to electricity and heating. They are also combatting the energy crisis long-term by building out affordable, accessible and renewable energy.
The Austrian Greens (Die Grünen) are working to ensure that the Austrian energy supply will become climate neutral faster and independent of the price fluctuations of the fossil energy markets. The Inflation Adjustment Package (Teuerungsausgleich Paket) was implemented in late January and ensures that:
- Most households will receive €150 energy cost offset
- At risk households will receive an inflation adjustment: an additional €150 to better cover the higher costs
- All households can afford to switch to new clean heating installations
- People can exchange old household appliances with energy-efficient appliances
Leonore Gewessler, Austrian Federal Minister for Climate Protection, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology, explains:
"We will not leave anyone alone in this situation. Anyone who needs support will get it (...) Measures are now needed that work quickly & noticeably relieve the people in our country."
Unser #Energiesystem ist aktuell noch von fossilem Öl-& Gas-Importen abhängig. Hohe Energie-Preissteigerungen sind die Folge, die uns alle treffen & die wir alle spüren. Deshalb haben wir ein umfassendes Maßnahmenpaket für die Menschen in dieser schwierigen Zeit geschnürt. 1/9 pic.twitter.com/E9j7EJVjux— Leonore Gewessler (@lgewessler) January 28, 2022
In Belgium, temporary tax cuts and allowances are planned to tackle soaring prices amidst the energy crisis. Tinne Van Der Straeten, Federal Minister of Energy and Member of Groen, has been a strong proponent of extending the social tariff to 'protect the most vulnerable from price hikes'. Now, Belgium will:
- Provide all households with a one-time electricity bill discount of €100
- Temporarily reduce VAT on electricity (from 21% to 6% from April)
- Provide lower income families with a social rate an extension from March 31 until the end of June
Ecolo et Groen are also pushing for structural solutions to combat energy poverty; including creating green jobs and implementing new wind farms and solar panels. Dependence on fossil fuels makes citizens vulnerable to its soaring prices. An energy transition in Belgium will allow the country to be less dependent on importing fossil fuels and uranium to cover its energy demand. Furthermore, regional initiatives which support vulnerable groups are being proposed by Ecolo.
In Germany, a heating allowance has been decided on in late January, which allows all households to receive rent allowances. It includes:
- Heating allowance to be paid in summer for all households who receive rent allowances
- Heating allowance for all students and people in vocational training who receive study allowances
The German Greens (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen) are also working on:
- Providing direct supplement for people with children
- Continuing to reduce the Renewable Energy Sources Act levy and replacing it with direct funding from the overall budget as well as pushing for a fairer division of the CO2 price between those who rent and those who own
The German Greens emphasise that the massive expansion of renewable energies is the most important instrument to lower electricity prices in the long term. The new coalition government is taking action to boost the expansion of renewables.
In Ireland, the Home Energy Upgrade Scheme is the biggest home insulation and retrofit scheme ever offered in the history of the state. It is a significant step towards meeting the Programme for Government commitment to retrofit 500,000 homes and install 400,000 heat pumps by 2030. It will also boost the creation of Green Jobs over the coming decade, especially in the construction sector.
Launched on 8 February by Minister Eamon Ryan, it will cut heating bills and lower carbon emissions by:
- Providing new grants covering half the cost of deep retrofits to improve energy efficiency
- Providing new grants covering up to 80% for minor works
Just launched the biggest home insulation scheme offered by the state.— Eamon Ryan (@EamonRyan) February 8, 2022
The National Home Energy Upgrade Scheme will :
👉Cut climate emissions
👉Tackle fuel poverty & price inflation
👉Improve people's health
👉Deliver social justice
Proud day to be @greenparty_ie pic.twitter.com/GCziJ6ElJZ
Households most at risk of energy poverty will also be eligible for a Free Energy Upgrade Scheme. Brian Leddin TD, Green Party Spokesperson for Transport, Climate Action and Environment, and Chair of the Oireachtas Committee on Environment and Climate Action, said:
"The Home Energy Upgrade Scheme will play a key part in Ireland's ambitious climate targets to reduce emissions while also reducing fuel poverty and ensuring everyone can live in a warm, comfortable home. It is critical that there are options now available for all households, regardless of income."
Why renewables are critical to guarantee energy for all
We shouldn't be subsidising fossil fuel companies to destroy the planet and burden households by driving up energy prices. Renewables are cheaper and faster to build than other energy sources – and a dirty profit tax would ensure that fossil fuel companies pay for the energy crisis.
Policies focusing on energy efficiency and renovations will also ensure better comfort as well as cleaner energy. Incentivising a shift towards powering our homes better and more efficiently will not only save us energy and money, but also make our homes safer and more comfortable. We can phase out the installation of new fossil fuel boilers and invest in better insulated homes and appliances that work better, while making sure households don't get stuck with the costs.
To make sure clean energy is accessible to all, the Greens are working to:
- Provide emergency income support to cover utility costs and ensure affordable energy services to households, especially the most vulnerable
- Implement fairer tax systems that ensure fossil fuels are not subsidised at the expense of people and the climate
- Implement a European-wide ban on disconnections and evictions for energy customers
- Enable households to install their own energy production or become members of a self-sufficient energy community
A just and sustainable transition ensures that European citizens are not subject to the fossilflation and its price shocks. With 37% of EU recovery monies dedicated to climate action, it's time to ensure that everyone has access to affordable and clean energy!