Romania’s households struggling to secure energy

epa03923546 YEARENDER 2013 FEATURE PACKAGE (20/20) A woman leans on her broom in front of her hut in a shantytown inhabited by Roma or Gypsy people in the Craica neighborhood of Baia Mare, northwestern Romania, 05 February 2013. Local authorities have been demolishing the shanties and rehousing Roma families in various types of accommodation, ranging from disused factories to old government offices, since 2011. Whilst they consider the group as illegal squatters, others argue that the forced evictions violate the rights of the Roma. The local government says that it is trying to lift the Roma out of poverty by giving them better housing and improving their access to education and employment. As of February 2013, plans to build modern social housing for the Roma consisting of 500 homes are in limbo, whilst funding is finalized and the search for a suitable site continues. EPA/ZSOLT CZEGLEDI PLEASE SEE ADVISORY NOTICE epa03603785 FOR FULL FEATURE TEXT - HUNGARY OUT

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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.


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