Energy poverty is a widespread problem across Europe, as between 50 and 125 million people* are unable to afford proper indoor thermal comfort. A common European definition does not exist, but many Member States (MS) acknowledge the scale of this socio-economic situation and its negative impact translated into severe health issues and social isolation. Different terms are used to describe affected persons: fuel poor, energy poor, vulnerable energy consumers or, to a larger sense, at-risk-of-poverty or low-income people.
Only four European countries (France, Ireland, Slovakia and UK) have an official definition for energy poverty.
- Energy poverty can be correlated with low household income, high energy costs and energy inefficient homes and can be tackled by income increase, fuel prices regulation and energy efficiency improvements in buildings.
- The majority of national schemes to reduce energy poverty focus on income support schemes such as fuel, heating and electricity subsidies.
- Vigorous energy renovation measures of energy poor homes address the essence of the problem due to reduced energy costs, improved thermal comfort and better indoor air quality.
- Among others, the United Kingdom, France, Ireland, Belgium and Romania have implemented support programmes to improve the energy performance of low-income and thus often energy poor homes. However, in most cases such energy poverty schemes mostly remain stand-alone instruments and are not integrated in a broader strategy on national or even on the EU level.
* Tackling Fuel Poverty in Europe, Recommendations Guide for Policy Makers". Report produced in the framework of the Intelligent Energy Europe project EPEE- European Fuel Poverty and Energy Efficiency, September 2009