Discussion paper – What determinants of micro-enterprises influence their energy vulnerability?


Energy poverty
Energy efficiency in industry and SMEs

“What the concepts of vulnerability have in common is the structural aspect. It is important, when we talk about just transition, that we include micro-enterprises and small enterprises in all the policy responses.”  A. Brieger, SMEunited

Given the growing issue of climate change, environmental degradation, and the resulting inequalities (Schot & Kanger, 2018), the European Union (EU) through its European Green Deal (EGD), proposed a set of objectives, measures, and mechanisms to promote a just, efficient, and competitive transition to a climate-neutral EU by 2050. The realisation of the energy transition is one of the most important policy development objectives of the EU for the period up to 2030, and includes the goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing energy efficiency, and enhancing the use of the renewable energy sources. Forty-plus years of research on the topic have focused on many aspects of the energy transition, in particular energy efficiency, showing its micro-level influences on disposable income or productivity, but also multiple-countries scenarios and technological developments changing courses of energy demand. Thoughtfully crafted policy interventions for energy efficiency improvement, as well as decarbonisation measures, consistently appear to contribute positively to economic welfare. (Saunders, 2021)

Looking at the same objectives from different perspective, energy transition and decarbonisation policies change import dependencies and global energy relations. (Yang & Qian, 2023) This fact became utterly important during the past two years and the threat to supply security through the Ukrainian war. Unstable prices of energy and unstable sources of imports have shown the burden that consumers endure even if they are not energy intensive. With that the burden to public funds dedicated to help the consumers, when trying to keep the economy stable. (UN Global Crisis Response Group (GCRG), 2022) Some countries are especially vulnerable to these circumstances, depending on their market composition (the lack of access to energy supply alternatives on infrastructural and market level), building ownership (affecting the possibility for interventions in the private-owned buildings), energy import dependences, macroeconomic indicators, and the capacities of the social protection systems.

Some consumer groups in those countries are, in particular, at risk of changes in energy prices. These consumer groups were until now mostly viewed as households vulnerable to energy poverty, and particular measures have been targeted towards them. The new European Social Climate Fund (SFC) and the reference to it in the Commission Recommendation on energy poverty, for the first time, mention the vulnerability of micro-enterprises in the same policy documents as energy poverty of households, putting small vulnerable consumers together, as a specific target group of the policies. (European Commission, 2023:b), (European Commission, 2023) Article 2 of the SCF Regulation outlines possible definitions for energy poverty, transport poverty, micro-enterprises, vulnerable households, and vulnerable transport users, but vulnerable micro-enterprises are still not well defined. Therefore, this discussion paper focuses on the research needed to determine the indicators of energy vulnerability of micro-enterprises.

In the report we:

  • define the notion of micro-enterprises and develop the notion of their energy vulnerability.
  • draft a list of indicators for the energy vulnerability of micro-enterprises and discuss challenges related to indicators composition.
  • explore the link between the energy vulnerability of households and micro-business.
  • discuss data availability and statistics relevant for indicators composition.
  • develop policy implications, exploring at first transition policies which may enhance energy vulnerability. if not accompanied by specific measures.
  • lay out the methodology for further research and discuss, how through case studies, sampling and statistical analysis the data context can be improved.
  • finally develop discussion questions for experts discuss concepts, data and approach to measure energy vulnerability in micro-enterprise.


In every of the business sectors, microenterprises represent around 90% of total companies.  They encounter major barriers in access to energy efficiency and are often not the target of the policies.

Energy vulnerability of micro-enterprises has yet to be researched: concept, indicators, needed datasets, policy implications and challenges, of which the biggest one is the overlap between microenterprises and households.

We open this topic by publishing a discussion paper, to collect your feedback, on which we will build further research.

Share with us your knowledge and help us work on suggesting effective mechanisms for the smallest companies that build the economy of Europe!

Contact: Ivana Rogulj.


A newsletter sharing topic-divided news and events, in your mailbox monthly

Follow us on Social Media