Columnists: Rod Janssen, Independent consultant

Published on: 21 Nov 2014

Chilling statistics on fuel poverty

This is the time of year in the northern hemisphere when we are reminded that energy efficiency policy is not an end in itself but a means to provide valuable benefits to our societies and our economies.  Most importantly, energy efficiency can help address the shocking incidence of fuel poverty.

A recent analysis by Age UK found that one older person dies every seven minutes from the effects of cold weather in Britain, and excess winter death rates and illness are highest among those living in the coldest homes.  A recent report, Alleviating Fuel Poverty in the EU , by the Buildings Performance Institute Europe (BPIE) finds that in 2012, 10.8% of the total European population was unable to keep their home adequately warm, increasing to 24.4% of low-income people. In Romania, more than 25% of the total population could not keep their home warm enough. That rose to over 70% in Bulgaria.

More shocking than these statistics is the complacency of the public and policymakers. While the article in the The Independent newspaper reported on the fuel poverty findings as a national scandal in the UK, the government is proud to recall that it is one of the riches countries in the world and the strongest economy in the G7. No country in Europe has been more determined to end fuel poverty than the United Kingdom, but still one in three older people are worried that they cannot pay for fuel this winter.

After Energy in Demand reported on the UK fuel poverty findings, a colleague in Romania wrote to say “just imagine the situation in Romania . . . How on earth could an average consumer in Romania with an average income of 350 EUR/month” cope with increasing energy prices. And he is not even talking about pensioners, who have even more meagre means. Decision-makers are talking in an “embarrassingly relaxed and candid way” about energy markets and prices in Romania without clearly understanding the issue, he wrote.

He is right. In April 2014, the BPIE published a report, Renovating Romania: A Strategy for the Renovation of Romania’s Building Stock .  All EU member states are required to prepare a buildings retrofit strategy and submit it to the European Commission for scrutiny. The BPIE report cites only one financial measure directed at fuel poverty.  It also cites the main barriers preventing the full potential of energy savings from being achieved. What has happened with the report now?

The International Energy Agency recently made global headlines with its report analysing the multiple benefits that can be derived from improved energy efficiency. Yet in October the European Council reduced the 2030 target for improved energy efficiency from the levels that had been proposed by the European Commission.  Why? Are they “embarrassingly relaxed”?

Well, we should not be.

The views expressed in this column are those of the columnist and do not necessarily reflect the views of eceee or any of its members.

Other columns by Rod Janssen

Oct 2016

Apr 2016

Nov 2011