Successfully combating fuel poverty and furthering energy efficiency

energy efficiency, electricity consumption, rexel foundation, fuel povertySuccessfully combating fuel poverty and furthering energy efficiency

In the face of increasing social inequalities between rich and poor countries as well as rising scarcity of natural resources, embracing the daunting energy challenge has never been so critical. Today, in spite of record-high worldwide energy generation capacities, 1.3 billion people still have no access to electricity.

Improving the access to energy efficient solutions is essential to both developing and developed countries. At a time when between 50 and 125 million Europeans suffer from fuel poverty and France has 3.8 million fuel poor households, ADEME President, speaking before the French National Assembly, said that “aid schemes have not been up to the task”. This alarming situation prompted French authorities to take measures aimed at keeping energy prices in check; however, none of them have yet borne full fruit.

In order to efficiently tackle fuel poverty, current policies, including the first relevant EU directives, have been focusing on thermal rehabilitation of buildings. A Rexel survey from April 2013 showed that in the UK, 92% of fuel poor respondents saw thermal renovation as one of the most efficient solutions to improve their energy situation.

The evidence suggests that pushing for more energy efficiency must go hand in hand with efforts towards rooting out fuel poverty. Energy efficiency could indeed rapidly and durably eradicate fuel poverty while preserving the environment on the long run.

Funding studies and research programmes

Academic research is key to furthering energy efficiency. The EU has set up funding programmes and issued a 17 million-euro call for research projects on energy efficiency. Other initiatives flourish: ADEME partnered with Total to support research teams and SMEs willing to carry out energy efficiency R&D projects. The Rexel and Schneider Electric foundations funded electricity and automation training programmes in Chile. The Rexel foundation also partnered with ESTP to fund a thermal renovation project, as well as with HEC to finance a PhD thesis on renewable energy sources. Across the globe, studies are being conducted in order to assess the performance of energy efficiency systems in a variety of ecosystems. This research will enable developing countries to become energy independent: the study conducted by Microsol in the Andes and financed by the Rexel foundation is but one example.

Solidarity and development aid projects

At the last environmental conference, the French government set energy efficiency goals for buildings; however, few projects have been completed. The French energy ombudsman recently expressed concern over increasing fuel poverty. Grass-roots initiatives emerge to tackle the issue, such as the campaign run by the Bail pour tous” (French for “Housing for all”) association, which raises awareness of energy efficiency issues and disseminates best energy practice among public housing residents.

At a more global level, many developing countries lack modern equipment; for the last decade, the ENDA Energy association, in partnership with UNEP, has been carrying out development aid missions in order to assist energy SMEs in rural and suburban areas. The Rexel foundation is involved in solidarity projects of this kind, for instance in China (installation of a solar power station in a school) or Peru (supplying a school and a clinic with electricity, in partnership with an NGO called Electricians Without Borders).

A growing number of similar undertakings in Europe and around the world should help further energy efficiency while alleviating fuel poverty.

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