The European Commission has launched a new EU Energy Poverty Observatory in an effort to tackle a visible problem across the EU.

At an event in Brussels on January 29, Vice-President for Energy Union Maroš Šefčovič acknowledged that energy poverty “has reached an unacceptable level – not only in the poorer countries of the EU but also in the richer ones”.

Roughly 9 percent of the EU population struggles to attain adequate warmth. According to the Commission, the Observatory aims to support informed decision making at the local, regional, and national level by providing a user-friendly and open-access resource that will promote public engagement on the issue of energy poverty, as well as serve to disseminate information and good practice among public and private stakeholders.

Awareness of energy poverty is rising in Europe and has been identified as a policy priority by the European Commission in its Clean Energy for All Europeans package of initiatives. The Commission proposed to establish a common definition and required the Member States to monitor figures and issue detailed reports.

This is part and parcel of the implementation of Principle 20 of the European Pillar of Social Rights and one of the enabling actions being put in place to support a just and socially fair clean energy transition, the Commission said.

“The launch of the Energy poverty Observatory marks an important milestone in our struggle for a more just, united, and inclusive Europe,” Šefčovič said, sitting at a panel that included Polish MEP Jerzy Buzek.

“The Observatory will develop indicators measuring energy poverty across the EU. This will provide, for the first time, a comprehensive overview of the situation based on comparable data. We live at a time when ‘alternative facts’ or ‘fake news’ are popular. But we must make sure our policymaking is based on sound and well-researched facts and data,” Šefčovič said, adding the data will, therefore, be useful for national and regional governments, for cities, civil society, and even for entrepreneurs pitching their solutions.

The observatory must also engage with the EU Member States, national, regional and local stakeholders as well as contribute its expertise and assistance while encouraging them to fight energy poverty, Šefčovič said.