Almost a quarter of Romanian households have problems in securing energy, either because they can’t afford it or because they aren’t connected to electricity or gas grids, according to a recent study from the Center for the Study of Democracy (CSD), a think tank in Cluj, Romania. However, fewer than 5 percent of households receive state aid to help with their heating needs.
It’s a broader problem hitting the poor and elderly across the EU — and governments across the bloc have dodged the tricky issue of setting a binding definition of energy poverty. That makes it harder to identify who needs help.
POLITICO defines the Romanian report as “the first comprehensive assessment of energy poverty in the country, and it’s pushed the topic up the political agenda in one of the EU’s poorest members. Experts say the government needs to do a better job of helping those in need.”
“The current system does not work effectively, leaving many out while insufficiently covering those who do receive benefits,” said Anca Sinea, energy policy expert at CSD.
Romania has a two-tier system. In addition to state aid for heating — something that accounts for 125 million lei, or only 0.33 percent of the labor ministry’s 2017 budget, according to CSD — the country also regulates energy prices. That’s not an option encouraged by the European Commission, which wants countries to liberalize prices. It’s also a pretty blunt tool, as it helps the needy while also subsidizing wealthier Romanians.