This year’s annual Forum, jointly organised by the International Energy Charter and the Government of Romania, brought together high-level politicians, officials and technical experts from Member and Observer countries of the International Energy Charter including Malta, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Mongolia, Turkmenistan, Pakistan, Jordan and China.
Delegates discussed ways in which investment in energy efficiency could be ramped up and targeted towards addressing energy poverty. The Forum aimed to inspire action on sharing the best solutions concerning financing possibilities and the best practices used in the implementation of energy efficiency programs and projects, particularly in low income areas.
Energy Charter Secretary-General Dr Urban Rusnák opened the Forum’s discussions alongside H.E. Anton Anton and H.E. Iulian-Robert Tudorache, Chairman of the Energy Charter Conference, both from the Ministry of Energy, Romania.
In his opening address, H.E. Anton Anton made clear why targeting energy poverty is a priority for Romania. He said, “ The implementation of energy efficiency measures with substantial impact in energy poverty eradication stays as an energy policy objective for Romania because we consider that combating energy poverty, inadequate homes and climate change together will bring an added value to our economy and to our citizen.”
Romania pursues a multi-pronged strategy to tackle energy poverty. The Minister continued, “To make homes part of the solution, there is a need for support of local community energy projects that reduce energy poverty on the ground, to protect citizens unable to pay their bills and ensure access to energy and also to prevent disconnections of low-income and vulnerable households and ensure a minimum quantity of energy to all the people.”
H.E. Iulian-Robert Tudorache indicated that a new approach and rethink is needed in order to step up energy efficiency investments. He said, “Efficiency is about us using limited resources more responsibly, and more economically. It is not just a different way of doing, it is a different way of thinking and of living.” At the same time, Mr Tudorache pointed out that such a new approach needs to be underpinned by robust policy and legal frameworks without taking shortcuts - he went on to say, “It is necessary to not underestimate the existing issue and to try to consistently approach it by proper policies, from both a conceptual and a legal perspective. “
Secretary-General, Dr Rusnak, encouraged countries to accelerate action in order to establish attractive investment conditions for energy efficiency. Without such conditions countries risk being locked into the vicious circle of inadequate cost recovery, under-investment and lack of public support. Energy efficiency can open up a virtuous circle whereby energy efficiency investment can alleviate energy poverty while delivering other co-benefits including lower system costs and prices, improved economic conditions and greater public support.
Deputy Minister Mr Chikovani of Georgia shared his country’s experience in establishing favorable conditions for attracting private investment. He stated, “We embarked upon a painful but necessary journey to ensure consumers’ energy prices recover costs. Raising consumers’ awareness of the value of energy and what it takes to provide services, and how energy efficiency can reduce these costs, has been key to gaining public acceptance of higher prices.”
Minister of Energy and Water Management of Malta, Joseph Mizzi, stressed the necessity to be very practical and to put words into action. Malta has adopted a number of initiatives to help low income households improve energy efficiency. The afternoon session elaborated on the details of developing practical policies and programmes with contributions from Romania’s National Energy Regulatory Authority and Romanian Fund for Energy Efficiency as well as the European Commission, Habitat for Humanity International, the University of Oxford, EU-BAC/Honeywell, UNECE and the Copenhagen Centre for Energy Efficiency.
Many countries and international organisations such as the International Energy Forum and the Black Sea Cooperation Organisation stressed the need for greater and continued cooperation with the International Energy Charter and its Members and Observers on the issue of alleviating energy poverty. Several experts underlined the importance of robust, transparent and coherent multi-layer governance arrangements to enable effective housing renovation on the ground.
H.E. Anton Anton concluded, “I am convinced that the path to a better sustainable future for all of us – one with less poverty, better life prospects for all, and a healthier environment should be based on the cooperation of all actors involved, the private sector, local authorities, financial institutions, research sector, end users and at a larger scale of all countries.”
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