Initially published on the ESRC Just Energy website on 31 May 2018.
On Monday, 28 May, Naomi and I organised a first series of meetings with energy poverty experts in Barcelona, Spain.
Catalonia is at the forefront of consumer protection and the fight against energy poverty in Spain and in Europe, driven by very committed civil society groups and receptive public institutions. For example, the 2015 Catalan Law 24/2015 on energy poverty was initiated by consumer and energy poverty NGOs.
In parallel, the fight against energy poverty has gained momentum since 2016, when a dramatic incident (caused by energy poverty) attracted the attention of the public and the media. This influenced policy-makers, social services, institutions and utilities to implement more inclusive measures.
In November 2016, “Rosa PV”, 81, died alone in a fire started by candles she used for light in her flat in the city of Reus in the south of Barcelona. Her electricity had been cut off due to non-payment of bills. The terrible case of Rosa has become a symbol of the dramatic effects of energy poverty. All the warning signs of an upcoming disaster were present. Her personal circumstances and the appalling quality of the flat she lived in resulted in the inability to afford paying her utility bills and manage unbearable debts. This led to the drastic measure of cutting her electricity supply. Rosa’s case fell through the cracks of the public and social services, which have since been adapting their procedures to handle these kind of emergencies more efficiently.
We met and discussed issues of energy poverty with a wide range of experts and local actors: energy poverty NGOs, activists, engineers, scholars, representatives of the industry and of the Catalan ombudsman service.
The ESRC Just Energy team will continue monitoring the issue closely in order to understand the role of the justice and ADR systems for the most fragile groups of society.