The Governance of Energy Poverty in Southeastern Europe Notes de l'Ifri, March 2011
This report presents the outcomes of a recently-completed research project1 aimed at uncovering the different ways in which energy poverty – understood as a condition wherein the domestic energy services available to a household are below socially and materially necessitated levels – is produced by, and mitigated through, the interaction of relevant decision-making institutions in the energy, social welfare, health and housing domains. The project focused on conditions in Southeastern Europe, where energy prices have been recently on the rise despite falling incomes and poor access to efficient and adequate energy services.
We explored the legal frameworks and governance practices that underpin energy poverty related policies the Republic of Macedonia and Bulgaria: two neighboring countries at different development stages in terms of the state’s regulatory capacity to support households vulnerable to energy deprivation. Data was gathered and analyzed with the aid of interviews with decision-makers, as well as a review of written legal and policy documents. The broad-level patterns of energy poverty in both countries were established with the aid of analyses of published statistical data, and findings from the secondary literature.
The findings of the study revealed that both states have moved from a reactive policy regime - entailing a slow process of energy liberalization and privatization due to social welfare concerns, gradual energy price increases, and the inadequate development of targeted social welfare programs – towards a more proactive approach, which has involved the strengthening and expansion of social safety nets, accompanied by the introduction of comprehensive measures such as block tariffs and direct earmarked support. Even though the shift from one regime to the other has taken place at a much faster and stronger pace in Bulgaria, both states still lack targeted residential energy efficiency programs for vulnerable households, and the flow of knowledge and expertise towards and among state institutions remains narrow and untransparent. In the Republic of Macedonia and Bulgaria alike, the state has found it difficult to determine which households need energy poverty-related social support, and to what extent. State housing policy remains underdeveloped and poorly co-ordinated, and there is inadequate cooperation with local government and NGOs, especially in the Republic of Macedonia. At the same time, the state institutions that have traditionally had a strong institutionally embedded role in setting social policy have a disproportionately powerful role in formulating and implementing energy poverty support. In addition to these issues, which are more or less common for both states, the Republic of Macedonia suffers from a bureaucratized, overregulated and politically ineffective decision-making process, characterized by a lack of effective co-operation among state and non-state actors.?