Energy Poverty and Energy Prices


Energy poverty is a situation where a household is unable to access a socially and materially required level of energy services at home. The indicators used by EU Statistics on Income and Living Conditions to measure fuel poverty are referring to the inability of people to keep their home adequately warm, to pay their utility bills and to live in a dwelling without defects. Fuel poverty is a major problem for Europe, as between 50 and 125 million people are unable to afford a proper indoor thermal comfort. In 2012, 10.8% of the total European population was unable to keep their home adequately warm, increasing to 24.4% when referring to low-income people. How will the current energy transition in the EU benefit those who are already marginalised and struggling economically? Over the past five years we have seen the number of people living in energy poverty increase.

In addressing the issue of energy poverty it is important to understand the causes and consequences of energy poverty in the EU. It is generally accepted that energy poverty is caused by three factors:

  • The low household income (also relative to the size of the property)
  • The high cost of energy
  • The poor energy efficiency of the house.

The consequences of energy poverty include a restricted use of heating, cold and damp homes, debts on utility bills and a reduction of household expenditure on other essential items. This can influence physical and mental well-being. Energy poverty is associated with a wide range of physical and mental health illnesses, such as depression, asthma and heart disease [4]. 

The role of heat-pump applications

The best policy for energy poverty is energy efficiency, said Commissioner Miguel Arias CaƱete in March during an ITRE Committee meeting.

Heat pumps produce 3-4 times as much heat as they need electricity to drive the compressor. As such they use 75% of renewable energy (air, water or ground) and only need 25% of electricity. As such they use the energy very efficiently.

In order to tackle energy poverty heat pumps can contribute significantly. The heat pump industry is mature and ready to deliver. Due to the heat pumps efficiency the annual energy bill of any household can be cut significantly. In order to help those who are struggling the most, it would for example be very effective if heat pumps were placed in social housing projects. Together with renovations and rules concerning the energy efficiency of residential buildings, energy poverty in the EU can be decreased. 

Policy state of play

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Policy calendar

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EHPA policy work


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EHPA positions

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