Budapest Forum 2022: How Can Cities Cope with the Energy Crisis?



  • Keynote speech by Claire Roumet, Director, Energy Cities
  • Eero Ailio, Policy Adviser On Energy Transition and Local Governance at the European Commission
  • Kim van Sparrentak, Dutch politician and Member of the European Parliament
  • Sofia Oliynyk, coordinator of the Program “Democracy Support and Human Security” at the Heinrich Boell Foundation Ukraine
  • Zsolt Szegfalvi, Executive Director at Habitat for Humanity Hungary
  • Moderator: Orsolya Barsi, Deputy Head Of The Department For Environment And Climate, City Of Budapest


Main takeaways

  • During the pandemic, many people hoped that the slower lifestyle and less usage of transportation could be a new normal, but what the quarantine actually did was pulling up prices of energy (gas and electricity).
  • With advice from the Commission, cities managed to overcome difficulties posed by the pandemic, however, the war created an entirely new situation. As a consequence, prices in the energy sector started to radically increase.
  • We are far too dependent on fossil fuels, which is partially an environmental problem, however, it is also a political one, since these energy sources primarily come from autocratic states, i.e., Russia.
  • The RepowerEU package sets a goal to transition to 35% renewable energy in Europe.
  • We must rethink how we see nuclear, and it’s safety, as it is still a more sustainable energy source, than coal power plants. However, this remains the midterm goal, whereas the urgent task is dealing with the current challenges of the energy system before the winter, as we cannot restructure the entire system overnight.
  • European Commission is funding voluntary energy transitions, as the acceleration of transitioning to renewable energy sources is one of the biggest priorities, both on the long and he short run.
  • The current crisis showed people that transition to sustainability should not be dependent on gas, or resources that can be imported from foreign countries. Another lesson of the war is how citizens can show solidarity with one another. It is crucial to keep this solidarity in mind. A society cannot allow for only the rich to have heating. Citizens should stand up for each other, as everyone should have a decent life within the limits of our planet.
  • Fit for 55 package is a major legislative package for reforming the financing of proposals and helps achieve multi-level governance needed to implement the projects for renewing the energy system.
  • Special attention needs to be paid to helping institutions that work with the most vulnerable groups.
  • In Hungary, 800 000 units of houses called “Kádár-cubes” were built before 1980, which are incredibly energy inefficient. Furthermore, only 9% of Hungarian houses are rentals, 2% is affordable or publicly owned rental, the rest is privately owned.
  • Municipalities have limited opportunities to increase number of well-insulated flats and initiate implementation of modernize heating system.


Policy recommendations

  • As there will be no return to cheap Russian pipeline gas and energy prices will not decrease to the pre-war status any time soon, those who are able to, must decrease their energy consumption, and those who are not capable of doing so – the energy poor – must be helped directly by local, national or international authorities.
  • A social climate fund, being negotiated by the European Union consists of regional modernization funds, financing for recovering from the energy crisis.
  • Central governments have high responsibility for channelling these existing funds where they are needed, the regional and the city level. As speakers highlight it, cities like Budapest and Warsaw are aware of how challenging the realities of getting proper funding and implementing changes can be.
  • Midterm solution to energy crisis could be usage of biogas, solar panels and modernizing heating in cities. Short-term solutions to save energy and decrease usage of gas require campaigns on easy ways to decrease consumption, since people are not used to having to save energy. These could be as simple, as fixing little things that leak heat, adjusting temperature in the room, or shops closing their doors.