Fair energy transition for all

The project in a nutshell

You may well be aware of it. We Europeans are seeing a gradual move away from satisfying our energy needs from fossil fuels to an energy system based on environmentally-friendly renewable energies and high energy efficiency. In the political jargon, that is known as the ‘energy transition’.

But what does that mean for our use of and expenditure on household energy and public and private transport? Now that is a key question we will be looking at during the course of this project.

At the core of our project are people whose interests are often not properly represented in political debates. We want to make sure that they are also heard.

For that precise purpose, debates will be held in nine European countries involving 1,000 citizens and 200 experts from all over Europe. The end result will be a series of national reports and a European report. They will offer insights into what these vulnerable groups think about the energy transition and will set out recommendations for the development of and communication about fair energy transition policies. National and EU legislators will be asked to take these recommendations into account in the policy-making and communication process. Our ultimate aim is encapsulated in the name of our project: A Fair Energy Transition for All.

NEWS

Pilot Focus Groups Europe

As 2021 begins, we look back at the six focus groups that were piloted between late November and early December 2020 in Belgium, Denmark and Germany.

» Read more

Let’s get to work!

Insights from our first offline focus group session.

» Read more

The journey begins

National partners head off together for a good start.

» Read more

Portrait Stefan Schäfers

Paving the way for sustainable energy supply in Europe

A Fair Energy Transition for All – what is the idea behind the project?

» Read more

The project in a nutshell

You may well be aware of it. We Europeans are seeing a gradual move away from satisfying our energy needs from fossil fuels to an energy system based on environmentally-friendly renewable energies and high energy efficiency. In the political jargon, that is known as the ‘energy transition’.

But what does that mean for our use of and expenditure on household energy and public and private transport? Now that is a key question we will be looking at during the course of this project.

At the core of our project are people whose interests are often not properly represented in political debates. We want to make sure that they are also heard.

For that precise purpose, debates will be held in nine European countries involving 1,000 citizens and 200 experts from all over Europe. The end result will be a series of national reports and a European report. They will offer insights into what these vulnerable groups think about the energy transition and will set out recommendations for the development of and communication about fair energy transition policies. National and EU legislators will be asked to take these recommendations into account in the policy-making and communication process. Our ultimate aim is encapsulated in the name of our project: A Fair Energy Transition for All.

Let’s get to work!

Insights from our first offline focus group session.

What topics are important to the participants? What questions do they have? Does our approach work as intended? In our project, pilot focus groups in Denmark, Belgium and Germany have provided the first answers to these preliminary questions.

The results were highly anticipated. Due to Covid-19 most of the pilots were done via video conferencing tools – which is why we were particularly happy about the opportunity to test our approach offline on December 4th during our focus group session in Germany’s post-industrial Ruhr region!

In a local institution, we were able to meet the participants of the first pilot group face to face. Covid-19 safety measures needed to be respected, of course: everyone wore a mask and the session took place in a large, regularly ventilated room with enough space between the tables.

Income inequality as most important issue

The focus group consisted of five long-term unemployed and provided initial insights into this group’s perspective on the energy transition. Growing income inequality and difference between poor and rich people in Germany are key issues for this group: while some people in Germany struggle to put food on the table and depend on food banks, others keep getting richer and richer. This is perceived as an obstacle that would need to be overcome in order to achieve a fair energy transition. One suggestion: Costs due to the refurbishment of buildings need to be distributed in a fair way.

The focus group also brought up the idea of involving citizens in policymaking on climate change: they should be participating more actively in deciding what measures should be taken by politicians. Overall, the discussion took place in a focused and respectful atmosphere. We are delighted that we had the valuable opportunity to speak directly with the participants – it was great to see how engaged and active they were throughout the workshop!

We are already looking forward to the input and learnings of our further pilot groups.

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The journey begins

National partners head off together for a good start.

Every journey starts with a first step – our journey towards a fair energy transition is no different: in a training session on October 20th, all project partners met for the first time!

Unfortunately, not in person, of course. But thanks to the internet, national facilitation and policy partners from nine countries as well as the team members of the project management group could come together nonetheless – 37 people in total. On the online meeting’s agenda: getting to know each other, and also ensuring that the whole team is well-prepared and on the same page before the upcoming dialogues.

Room to learn, practice and discuss.

During the training session, the partners practiced and discussed specific tasks which they will carry out soon in their respective countries. Highlights included a short input by Stefan Schäfers, director of the King Baudouin Foundation, on the history of the project. Prof. Stefan Bouzarovski from the Manchester Urban Institute gave a presentation on the meaning of the term “energy poverty.” He provided insights into the most relevant EU policy and legislative developments expected – and he made clear why it is important for member states and the EU institutions to ensure that the energy transition is fair. Moreover, the training session gave all partners the opportunity to share updates on national energy transition policies and issues in the different countries.

Let’s get to work!

After a long day of virtual discussions (or because of it?), everyone was excited to start working on the project. It became most evident that this project is somewhat a matter close to the hearts of all partners: everyone is eager to help one another and to ensure that all countries are able to make the most out of this project. The first step has been taken. The long journey towards a fair energy transition starts with pilot groups in Belgium, Denmark, and Germany.

Now, everyone is prepared to start with their tasks and get a Fair Energy Transition off the ground. We are looking forward to it!

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Portrait Stefan Schäfers

Paving the way for sustainable energy supply in Europe

A Fair Energy Transition for All – what is the idea behind the project? Stefan Schäfers, Director at the King Baudouin Foundation, explains why the King Baudouin Foundation and its partners decided to set it up.

Is the transition towards an environmentally sustainable energy supply in Europe an elitist issue? Certainly not. After all, climate change and its effects concern all of us and so having an emission-free energy supply should be important to all of us too. In many European countries, however, climate protection policies and measures promoting renewable energies often meet with considerable resistance. The yellow vest protest movement in France is just one example. Many people feel that their interests on this issue are not being taken into account. But it will be very hard for climate action to be successful without society in its broadest sense accepting energy transition measures. This is what the Fair Energy Transition for All project is about.

We want to discuss the issues with those who are expected to be most concerned by the negative effects of the energy transition in nine countries across Europe. That includes, among others, people with low levels of formal education and families living on basic social welfare. Our goal is to gain a better understanding of their views, their fears and the issues that matter most to them. Because one thing is clear: The energy transition requires policy measures that affect citizens’ everyday lives. And where, for example, transport or household energy prices rise, the economically and socially disadvantaged groups are the ones that are most directly affected by these changes. And they are therefore the ones that feel most left behind.

We set up this project together with our partners in order to address these concerns and to contribute to a socially fair energy transition. It is important that we take a pan-European approach on crucial issues like this. I am therefore delighted that we have joined forces with the Network of European Foundations, the Fondazione Cariplo from Italy, the Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt and Stiftung Mercator from Germany and the Open Society European Policy Institute.

Together, we want to pave the way towards an environmentally sustainable energy supply for Europe without leaving anyone behind. This would be an important step towards both greater energy efficiency and the European Commission’s goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. I am very much looking forward to getting started and I can’t wait to learn about the insights and recommendations that will be handed over to national and European policy-makers at the end of the project. It will be up to them to transform the project’s findings into policies in order to secure a fair energy transition for all.

Stefan Schäfers

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Energy Transition: Everybody is Affected – so everybody should be heard!

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The energy transition can help slow down global warming

Global warming has become clear for everyone to see in the last few years. The way in which we produce and use our energy accounts for more than 80% of total greenhouse gas emissions. European and national policy-makers urgently need to reduce these emissions by replacing fossil fuels with sustainable energy sources. This is known, in the political jargon, as ‘ensuring a carbon-free energy supply‘.

What does the term ‘energy transition’ mean? The energy transition that we are talking about refers to the move away from energy produced using fossil fuels towards a system based on renewable energy sources and high energy efficiency. See the FAQ for more information.

Not all citizens are equally involved in the debate about the energy transition

For the energy transition to take place, policy measures need to be put in place that will have an impact on housing, energy, transport and other aspects of our everyday lives. However, the impacts of climate policies, such as rising fuel taxes or the closure of coal mines, affect socially and economically disadvantaged groups the most. This leads to economic and social conflicts: many people feel alienated by climate change policies, which they perceive as elitist issues, and they feel that the elites are out of touch with their lives and are not aware of their interests.

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Give everyone the opportunity to be part of the debate

For climate action to be successful, widespread public acceptance is needed. European and national policy-makers need to develop climate change policies that everyone can relate to and benefit from! Policy-makers should listen to those whose voices are being left out of the current debate and include them in the policy and communication process. That is the only way in which a fair energy transition can be achieved – for all!

We listen to what vulnerable people have to say about the energy transition

How can we get there? The aim of the project is to build on the concerns and experiences of ordinary people in order to develop concrete solutions and policy recommendations. The first step is to start listening! The dialogue, which will take place in 2021, will invite economically and socially disadvantaged people in nine EU countries to share ideas and thoughts about the effects of the energy transition on their lives.

dialogue
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We want to know

  • How can the EU and its member states prevent climate policies from hitting the pockets of poorer households the hardest?
  • How can policies be designed so that everyone has an equal opportunity to enjoy the benefits of the energy transition?
  • How can the energy transition be combined with social justice?

Fair Energy Transition for All has two main goals

  • We want to gain a better understanding of the emotions, fears, views and needs of vulnerable people with regard to the energy transition and its current and potential impact on their living conditions.
  • We want to provide input to national and European policy-makers, researchers and stakeholders to help them develop fair energy transition policies and enhance the communication with the target group.
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The Project is set up by a Consortium of European Foundations

The King Baudouin Foundation is coordinating a consortium of European foundations to pave the way for a fair energy transition in Europe.

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citizens all over Europe will be involved
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experts on national and European levels will be consulted
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Focus Groups in nine European countries will be organized

All across Europe:

Belgium Bulgaria
Denmark France
Germany Italy
Netherlands Poland
Spain  

The European track in this project is led by the following partners

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The path towards a more inclusive energy transition

The Fair Energy Transition for All project is based on listening to vulnerable groups, gathering their views and presenting them to experts and policy-makers. Click on the boxes for more information!

NATIONAL LEVEL

EU-LEVEL

2021
Dialogue

National Level

Dialogue Phase I
Focus Groups gather views of vulnerable people

  • Focus groups structure discussions about specific issues with people, in this case the energy transition.
  • The focus groups will be made up of people from economically vulnerable or socially disadvantaged groups with a diversity of profiles.
    • These could be people living on basic social welfare, elderly people, less educated households, people with a migrant background or people especially affected by structural changes due to climate policies (e.g. in the coal mining sector).
  • These marginalised groups will contribute their experiences, concerns and ideas in the focus group discussions.
  • In all, 90 focus groups will be run in nine different EU countries to
    • understand the challenges faced by ordinary people in their everyday lives and to understand what they need from the energy transition.
    • paint a picture of the problems and to propose possible solutions in each specific country.
  • For a methodology note on focus group design and selection process in this project, see here.
National Level

National Expert Meetings and EU Task Force: Develop policy recommendations with experts

  • In each country, the focus group results will be discussed in workshops with national experts.
  • Participants will include policy-makers, government officials, academics, members of think tanks, the business community, civil society and consumer organisations.
  • The aim of the national expert meetings is to develop workable policy recommendations based on the results of the national discussions with vulnerable people.
  • The input from the focus groups and the national expert groups’ policy recommendations will be discussed by the EU Task Force at the EU level. This group is the European counterpart to the National Expert Meetings and will work on EU-level policy recommendations.
National Level

Dialogue Phase II
Review and finalise policy recommendations in citizens’ assemblies

  • The policy recommendations that were previously produced by national and EU experts will be reviewed and finalised by a national citizens’ assembly in each country.
  • The assemblies will be held with representatives of the original focus groups, together with experts supporting the citizens.

2022
Advocacy

National Level

National Reports and Outreach Events: Publish a national report for submission to policy-makers

  • The results of the dialogue with citizens and experts will be published in a national report from each country.
  • Each national report will reflect the policy recommendations that emerged from both the focus groups and the Task Force meetings and explain how they were developed.
    • To find their way into national policies, the policy recommendations will be presented to policy-makers and the interested public in national outreach events.
    • These events will also start joint discussions on how to best implement the recommended policies at the national level.
EU-Level

Final Report and Public Event: Draft and submit a final report to EU policy-makers

  • The overall results of the Fair Energy Transition for All project will be drafted into a final European report.
  • Similarly to national events, a final public event will be organised at EU level. It will be the opportunity for the final report to be handed over to EU policy-makers and will launch joint discussions on how to best implement its recommendations in the EU context.

In general, energy transition can be understood as a switch from an economic system dependent on one or a series of energy sources and technologies to another.

This project is about the transition away from a system of energy production based on fossil fuels towards a system based on renewable energy sources and high energy efficiency.

The project will look into the implications of this transition for the use of and expenditure on household energy and public and private transport.

When it comes to environmental policies, all the interested parties need to work together. If they do not, there can be no lasting solution.

A major problem is that some climate action policies have a particularly negative effect on socially and economically disadvantaged groups. Their voices are often missing or not heard in debates about climate change and the energy transition. This leads to these groups suffering the negative effects of the energy transition more than others, which is unfair and leads to social unrest.

Moreover, this also makes it harder to reach a broad consensus within society on the type of climate action to be taken. A broad consensus in society is a prerequisite for an effective and sustainable energy transition.

For the purposes of this project, the term ‘vulnerable people’ refers to those groups who are socially or economically disadvantaged and whose interests are often not sufficiently represented in political debates.

This includes unemployed people, low income earners, single parents, young people or elderly citizens as well as workers threatened with the loss of their jobs due to increasing regulations on energy-intensive industries.

These groups tend to suffer the negative effects of environmental policies far more than others and are excluded from most of the benefits.

A consortium of six European Foundations is behind the Fair Energy Transition for All project.

The King Baudouin Foundation is coordinating the project. The partners are the Open Society European Policy Institute/OSF, the Mercator Stiftung, IKEA Foundation, the Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt and the Fondazione Cariplo.

The European track in this project is led by ifok, the European Policy Center (EPC) and Climate Outreach while the national tracks are being carried out by partner organisations in each of the countries.

The Network of European Foundations (NEF) is managing the administrative aspects of the project.

The final results will be published in national reports and summarised in a final European report.

These reports will deliver insights about the views of vulnerable people on the subject of the energy transition and will present recommendations for the development of fair energy transition policies.

The results will be presented to policy-makers and stakeholders at the European and national levels.

EU and national legislators will be asked to take the resulting recommendations into account in the policy-making process.

The results obtained during the first citizens’ consultation phase will be fed into national expert meetings and European Task Force meetings. These include policymakers, administrations, members of the civil society, think tanks and academia.

The experts will draw concrete and workable policy recommendations from the citizens’ input.  

Afterwards, these results will be fed back into a second citizens’ involvement phase. Here the citizens take control. They will be in charge of finalising the recommendations and therefore making sure their voices are heard.

The Fair Energy Transition for All project aims to bring people who are generally not well represented into the debate.

Throughout the project, we will engage with a variety of local organisations and tailor our work to the specific requirements and social structures in each country in order to manage this difficult task and reach a broad range of participants.

We really want to make sure that we are reaching those whose voices were not already being heard, so we are looking for individuals with low or no income who were not already affiliated with any organisations.

Overall, the focus groups are intended to reflect the urban, rural and peripheral regions of each country.

People may be adversely affected by energy transition policies in several different ways, so we are taking a variety of risk factors into account in the recruitment process. These include age, housing conditions, gender, work, health/disability and ethnicity.

The focus groups invite participants to reflect on their own lives, circumstances, values, the problems facing their hometown or region and their understanding of the concept of fairness.

Following this discussion, participants discuss common narratives about the energy transition and are invited to consider how their lives might be affected by the shift.

Finally, they are invited to suggest solutions to the various problems that may arise.

Pascale Taminiaux

Senior Project Coordinator
King Baudouin Foundation

Phone

+32-2-549 02 91

Stefan Schäfers

Director
King Baudouin Foundation

Phone

+32-2-549 02 39