The International Energy Poverty Action Week (IEPAW) will occur in February 2023 for the second year, focusing on efforts to address global energy poverty. IEPAW will take place virtually from February 20–24 and will bring together experts in the fields of energy access and energy poverty for a series of five seminars, roundtable discussions and workshops, among other activities, centered on finding practical solutions to this global problem.
Global Energy Poverty and Health
The first day of the event aims to assess the relationship between energy poverty and the population’s health. Many poverty-stricken families are most often located in rural areas and depend on the use of unclean fuels, such as coal and firewood, to generate heat and prepare food. Such fuels contribute to air pollution and have a debilitating effect on people’s health.
According to a report from European Environment Agency (EEA) in October 2022, Europe’s greatest environmental health concern is air pollution — a significant contributor to early mortality and disease. EEA data shows that, in 2019, fine particulate matter stood as the cause of roughly 307,000 premature deaths in the 27 EU countries. The agency also estimated that 40,400 premature deaths related to high levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and “ground-level ozone” has been connected to 16,800 sudden deaths.
As a result of the energy crisis of 2022, supply cuts have pushed people to rely on unclean fuels. Assessing the link between energy inaccessibility and health, with the support of qualitative surveys, will allow for data-driven solution development.
Discrimination and Social Impacts
Exploring the “different faces of vulnerability” also forms part of the IEPAW’s agenda. This means considering the social impacts of energy poverty and assessing how “gender, class, age, disability and ethnic and racial identity interact with energy poverty.”
A study in South Africa by Boqiang Lin and Michael Adu Okyere aimed to assess the link between race and energy deprivation. The researchers found that people of color endure a higher prevalence of energy deprivation. In particular, findings highlight that non-whites, particularly black people, are 11.5% more likely to experience energy deprivation in comparison to white people. The researchers also found that minorities who receive “free basic electricity and social housing subsidies” generally see no improvement in their energy poverty.
Considering studies like these, IEPAW will attempt to address social issues that link to energy deprivation and encourage decision-makers to take action to address the prejudice associated with the distribution of subsidies.
Economy and New Policy Responses
Energy poverty and its relation to the economy and the policy responses needed to address the issues are at the heart of IEPAW’s five-day event. The session will highlight several global strategies for investing in the fight against energy poverty and addressing financing barriers in countries that do not acknowledge energy deprivation as a problem.
The agency aims to assist nations to “navigate a new world order while preserving social stability,” hinting that deeper structural adjustments may be necessary for “economies, policies and societies.” The discussion will examine potential strategies for energy policies that aim to resolve global economic, social and technical issues.
Findings of a U.K. Citizens Advice report, published in January 2023, show how dire the energy crisis is for millions of low-income and vulnerable households in one of the most energy-efficient countries, the United Kingdom. Around 3.2 million individuals in Great Britain had their prepaid electricity meter credit completely depleted in 2022 due to an inability to afford the expense of replenishing it. This equates to a person disconnecting from the electricity supply every 10 seconds due to the high cost of living.
The U.K. ranked second in the International Energy Efficiency Scorecard in 2022 but still faces problems of such nature. This provides insight into the gravity of the energy situation in less developed countries.
Spiraling energy costs, harmful air-polluting fuels, poor quality housing and inadequate electricity supply among the world’s most deprived are pressing concerns that require collective action and fast solutions. The IEPAW’s activities aim to “create an energy system that puts people and planet before profit” by bringing together stakeholders from a wide variety of backgrounds to find innovative solutions to solve global energy poverty.
– Ralitsa Pashkuleva