To encourage local and central authorities’ action to fight energy poverty in Poland by producing recommendations on three dimensions of the problem: high energy costs, low income, and low energy efficiency of the buildings.
The Shipyard Foundation (Fundacja Stocznia) with the Copernicus Science Center (Centrum Nauki Kopernik) as the main partner.
How to counteract the problem of energy poverty in Poland.
Commitment to respond
No formal link to the political process. The assembly, and preceding local councils, were designed to influence public debate and the actions of public authorities.
The Shipyard Foundation was supported by an Expert Group from 18 organisations (including think tanks, companies, and NGOs) to select evidence and provide inputs to the organisation.
A facilitation team ran the discussions of the assembly.
86 members including 8 members from the local councils (see “public engagement”). The phone recruitment process lasted over a month with a total of 113,000 calls, out of which 221 agreed to participate in the assembly. Participants were then selected based on criteria of gender, age, education, income and geography to be representative of the Polish population. Members received an honorarium, and their meals, accommodation and travel costs were covered.
Two in-person weekend sessions organised at the Copernicus Center in Warsaw (22-23 October and 5-6 November 2022) and one online evening session organised to vote on the final recommendations (16 November).
During the first session, the assembly heard presentations from experts on energy costs, energy efficiency, and low-income issues. At the second session, members considered and discussed solutions across ten questions: What actions should be taken to support households experiencing energy poverty in the most precise way possible? What social benefits should be used in response to the problem of low-income and energy poverty? What non-financial support should be given to people in energy poverty? What kind of housing support should be provided to people in energy poverty? How to ensure access to safe, clean, and cheap energy in Poland? What changes does the Polish power system require What energy sources should be invested in, and which energy sources should be restricted? How to modernize buildings to reduce energy waste, reduce costs and not pollute the air? What should be done to make energy advice more accessible? What should be changed or improved in the current support programs for building thermos-modernization? The recommendations were voted on at the last online session. The assembly worked as a single group rather than splitting into workstreams.
Table facilitation for groups of 7 to 10 participants. In total, 10 rounds of discussion were organised within the whole process, each one with a different configuration of people.
Zoom was used for the voting session with an online form on Lime.
The Expert Group selected evidence and witnesses in areas such as environmental protection, energy, energy efficiency, energy poverty, and renewable energy sources. Members received presentations from experts as well as documentation (available on the website). Organisers and the Expert Group provided answers to at least two thirds of the 400 questions asked during the first session. Members asked for an additional presentation on the issue of nuclear power production for the second session.
During the deliberation sessions, experts’ proposals were reformulated by the members, with additional proposals produced in small groups.
Simple majority voting. The details of the votes are included in the final report including the “power of support” behind each recommendation: the balance between “I support, I neither support nor don’t support, No. I don’t support it, I have no opinion”.
A report containing the assembly’s proposals (more than 100 recommendations) was published and presented to politicians in December 2022 (recording of the livestreamed event). An English translation of the report is available.
The citizens’ assembly website provides details of the standards and rules of procedure, the programme of the sessions, and experts’ contributions (including pre-recorded videos). The press was invited to attend every session and two press conferences at the beginning and the end of the process. Media interest in the assembly grew as the process progressed and allowed for important coverage of its report’s presentation.
Participation of the wider public was organized ahead of the assembly through local civic councils in Spring 2022. They aimed to collect feedback from participants to feed to relevant stakeholders as well as to the nationwide citizen’s assembly. The 45 local councils of various scales and structures were organised across the Polish territory engaging a total of 700 participants. Participants discussed how to individually prevent the consequences of growing energy prices and what systemic approach can help reduce energy poverty. An English version of the local councils’ report is available here.
No formal response from the government or parliament at the time of writing, but meetings with the Parliament are to be organised in 2023.
Oversight of official response
Beyond meetings with the Parliament, it is expected that civil society organisations and private actors will engage more actively in the public debate on energy poverty.
Too early to tell but the presentation of the report gathered important media coverage and the attendance of representatives from all major political parties in Poland. Some called for the establishment of a citizens’ assembly to deal with issues such as climate, public media, and migration policy.
The organisers appointed a team to observe the process for scientific purposes and ensure compliance with the standards and the methodology adopted by the assembly (KNOCA was among the participating organisations). An independent evaluation of the process (deliberation and voting) has been conducted and will continue to assess the impact of the process.
195,000 euros for the overall organisation, including 14,000 euros for recruitment.