The final Energy strategy document published by the Energy Ministry reads more like an energy outlook than an energy strategy. To be fair, the effort to gather statistical data, engage in modelling, scenario and sensitivity analysis must be commended as is a much-welcomed break with the hitherto monopoly of one state institute (ISPE) that authored all Romania’s energy strategy documents in the past. However, in this opinion article I would like to focus on some aspects that can be improved.
It is noteworthy that of the 5 stated fundamental goals, ‘combating energy poverty and protection of the vulnerable consumer’ comes 5th (last, after ‘energy security’, ‘competitive markets’, ‘clean energy’, and ‘modernization of energy governance’). At the same time, the first of the 5 principles on which the document is based is “the consumer comes first”. But, if the consumer is at the top of policy action, shouldn’t energy poverty reduction be the top goal of a country such as Romania, where, may I remind approx. 100,000 households are not even connected to the electrical grid, where 90% of rural consumers rely on firewood for heating, a country with 40% of population at risk of poverty or social exclusion (highest % in the entire EU), the highest rate of monetary poverty in the EU (25% of population in 2014), worst rate of material deprivation (second only to Bulgaria), highest % in the EU of in-work at-risk-of-poverty rate among employed persons (i.e. unable to make ends meet despite having a job or, in other words, the “working poor”). Should not the Romanian citizen, therefore energy poverty reduction, be the first priority? In the five central areas of intervention outlined, energy poverty reduction is again last (5th after ‘generation capacity and electricity mix’, ‘gas supply infrastructure’, ‘role of biomass in heating of households’, ‘high efficiency cogeneration and modernization of district heating’). The priority areas of intervention (as currently outlined) seem to reflect more the result of a lobbying process rather than the true priorities of Romania. As important as the renewal of Romanian power generation capacity is or the upgrade of Romania’s gas infrastructure (necessary first and foremost for the export of natural gas), energy poverty reduction in a country like Romania should come first both in terms of key goals as well as key areas of intervention. As a comparison, the 2015 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) lists “no poverty” as its top goal, ahead of “affordable and clean energy” (# 7), “decent work and economic growth (#8), “industry, innovation and infrastructure” (#9), “sustainable cities and communities” (#11), “responsible consumption and production (#12) and even “climate action (#13).
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