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 .