Big win for the right to energy: a prohibition on disconnections in Europe

Energy poverty

(19 December 2023) Last week, the European Council and the European Parliament reached a provisional agreement to reform the EU’s electricity market design (EMD). In a huge win for EPSU and other members of the right to energy coalition that have long campaigned for a ban on disconnections, Article 8 of the agreement provides that: “Member states shall ensure that vulnerable and energy poor customers are fully protected from electricity disconnections... including the prohibition of disconnections”. 

The reform aims to make electricity prices less dependent on volatile fossil fuel prices, shield consumers from price spikes, accelerate the deployment of renewable energies and improve consumer protection. Whilst the right to energy coalition advocated for stronger language and even more binding provisions, the outcome is a big step forward which will better protect citizens, especially the most vulnerable.  

The provisional agreement now needs to be endorsed and formally adopted by both institutions before being transposed into national legislation. EPSU and other members of the right to energy coalition will continue to push for ambitious transpositions and for a strong, real ban on disconnections at national level that go above and beyond the text agreed last week. 

EPSU began campaigning on the right to energy almost a decade ago, before becoming a founding member of the right to energy coalition in 2017. Whilst progress was initially limited, EPSU and other members have continued fighting to ensure the human right to energy. The agreement reached last week, which comes at the end of a year of strong advocacy, is the latest victory for the right to energy coalition.  

However, with tens of millions of people across Europe falling into energy poverty, and 9.3% of the EU population unable to keep their homes adequately warm in 2022, up from 6.9% the year before, more needs to be done. Ahead of the EU Energy Council's meeting in Brussels today, the coalition proposed a winter plan to fully combat Europe’s energy crisis. During the meeting, the Energy Council agreed to extend the regulation to prevent price hikes for gas and electricity to 2025.

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Article 28a 

1. Member States shall ensure that vulnerable and energy poor customers are fully protected from electricity disconnections, by taking the appropriate measures, including the prohibition of disconnections or other equivalent actions. This shall be provided as part of the concept of vulnerable customers pursuant to Article 28 (1) of this Directive and without prejudice to the measures set out in Article10(11).Article 10(11). When notifying the Commission about the transposition of this Directive, Member States shall demonstrate the measures adopted to implement the first subparagraph. 

2. Member States shall ensure that suppliers do not terminate contracts and do not disconnect on grounds on which they are handling a complaint in accordance with Article 10(9) or which are the matter of out of court dispute settlement in accordance with Article 26, and shall not af ect the parties contractual rights and obligations. Member States may take appropriate measures to avoid abuses of processes. 

3. Member States shall take appropriate measures to enable customers to avoid disconnection, which may include: 

(a) Promoting voluntary codes for suppliers and customers on aimed at preventing and managing situations of customers in arrears; these arrangements may concern support to customers to manage their energy use and costs, including flagging unusual high energy spikes or usage in winter and summer seasons, of ering appropriate flexible payment plans, debt advice measures, self metering readings, improved communications with customers and support agencies. 

(b) Promoting consumer education and awareness of customers about their rights and debt management. 

(c) Access to finance, vouchers or subsidies to support payment of bills. 

(d) encouraging and facilitating the provision of meter readings every three months, or where relevant for shorter billing periods, where a system of regular self-reading by the final customer has been implemented to meet the obligations of points 2(a) and 2(b) of Annex I of this Directive in relation to frequency of billing and the provision of billing information

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