By Meritxell Arús *
Despite the fact that there have been multiple initiatives by organizations, countries and companies, it is estimated that between 50 and 125 million people in Europe suffer from this problem, which affects their health and well-being. Furthermore, energy poverty also affects the environment and the world economy. Today more than ever formulas are needed to reverse this situation.
According to one analysis, people who spend more than 10% of their income on heating for their home live in conditions of energy poverty. This is mainly due to acombination of low income, high energy prices and low energy efficiency of homes.
The main victims of energy poverty are low-income households, who often find it difficult to pay their electricity bills. However, this phenomenon can also affect middle-class households. ADEME (the French Environment and Energy Agency) has identified the following profile of French people who cannot pay their heating bills:
- Almost 60% are among the poorest households in the country
- 10% are single-parent families with children
- 46% are people who live alone, often elderly
- 62% are homeowners, often elderly with homes in need of renovation
- 65% live in city centers
- 36% live in homes built before 1975.
Impact on health, society and the environment
This situation can have a huge impact on people's health and well-being. According to a study by the Marmot Review Team (Institute of Health Equity), energy poverty causes an increase in mortality in winter, an increased risk for some diseases (blood circulation problems, respiratory problems such as asthma, rheumatism or flu, among others ), and also effects on mental health, highlighting the risk of anxiety and depression.
In addition, poor home insulation, combined with inadequate heating, results in higher greenhouse gas emissions and consumes more energy at home. Given that the use of energy in homes represents a third of CO2 emissions in Europe, the significant impact that this entails for the environment can be deduced.
According to organizations such as ADEME, every year more and more people suffer from energy poverty, up to 40% since 2009. Many of the measures implemented by NGOs and Public Administrations are more curative than preventive and do not address the underlying causes of energy poverty.
Currently there is some aid to reduce the electricity bill and initiatives have been launched to reduce the price of energy in European countries such as France, England, Belgium and Spain. Some governments have implemented preventive measures that allow households to renovate their home, as in France, Great Britain, Sweden.
For its part, as a key player in the energy sector, Schneider Electric has been involved in this problem with different training, assistance and support initiatives.
Furthermore, Schneider Electric collaborates with the NGO Ashoka in the “Social Innovation to Tackle Fuel Poverty” program, which aims to improve the living conditions of millions of disadvantaged people in Europe. The program wants to identify and support between 15 and 20 innovative initiatives of social entrepreneurs each year, focused on fighting energy poverty. The program takes place simultaneously in Germany, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain. The selected projects have training, monitoring and personalized and specialized support for twelve weeks, for a total of 300 hours of dedicated tutoring sessions, to develop an effective and sustainable business strategy.
Energy poverty is a difficult problem to understand and measure, but it is undoubtedly a challenge to face in many countries, both because of what it represents for the poorest households and because of its environmental effects. The sustainable and efficient use of energy can help overcome energy poverty while boosting social and economic development with new initiatives.
* Director of Communication and CSR of Schneider Electric Spain
The Energy Newspaper