Energy poverty: The percentage of households that cannot keep their homes at an adequate temperature skyrockets
6.7 million households (14.3% of the total) in 2021, before the war in Ukraine and when the current energy crisis began, were found to be unable to maintain adequate temperature in their homes. This is an increase of almost four points compared to 2020 (1.6 million more people), which means that almost twice as many families are in this situation than in 2019, and “a very alarming figure”, according to the Energy Poverty Indicator Report in Spain 2021 by the Pontifical University of Comillas on Tuesday. submitted.
Winter “in the mousetrap”: increased lighting leads to unsafe houses and electric heating to the limit
The researchers believe that this deterioration “definitely reflects two realities: on the one hand the echoes of the storm Philomena and the tendency to consume less energy than necessary in households.” José Carlos Romero, coordinator of the Department of Energy and Poverty at the University of Comillas and lead author of the report, believes that it is “highly likely” that this indicator “points to a growing tendency among many households to limit heating for fear of the bill”. ”
Already in June, another report prepared by the Red Cross with the non-profit organization Ecodes indicated that 75% of vulnerable households served by this NGO would not be able to keep their homes adequately warm in 2021.
The authors of the report presented this Tuesday indicated that the past year was “a year of few lights and great shadows. Very few households paid a disproportionate percentage of their income to cover their energy costs, but, conversely, many more households entered the dark abyss of chronic hidden energy poverty. “We are facing the highest pressure of energy poverty in our country. More than 30% of all Spanish households fail to meet half of their theoretical energy costs.
The authors acknowledge that, had the government not taken measures such as the strengthening of social bonds, tariff cuts, VAT and electricity taxes last year, “severe hidden energy poverty would have reached 200,000 more households”. They calculate that this indicator would have reached 11.65% of households, an increase of 1.3%. “Although they did not manage to stop the coup,” the measures “gave relief to at least a negligible percentage of families.”
Thus, there has been a decrease in the percentage of households with unequal expenditure on energy (relative expenditure more than twice the national average), which has gone from 15.2% to 16.1%, “corresponding to a large increase in income relative to energy bills. ” Energy prices have already skyrocketed in the second half of the year. has clashed. Households with energy costs less than half the national average had a decline of more than one point (to 10.1%).
The indicator on declared delays in payment of invoices has stabilized at 9.5% in recent months, so the increase in delinquency “is not perceived”, “although it is not good news that it remains in the environment of 10%”.
Acute hidden poverty
The report also looks at two additional indices. The first is M/2, which identifies a household in an insufficient expenditure situation if it spends less than half of what the average household in our country does on energy. It stood at 10.12%, from 10.32% a year ago. The second is the HEP, which identifies a household in “severe hidden energy poverty” if it spends less than a quarter of what it actually needs to meet its energy needs (essential energy expenditure). In this case, it has come down from 4.8% to 10.32%.
That last indicator “deserves more credit for a variety of reasons,” says Roberto Barella, a Comillas Chair researcher and co-author of the report. First, because “it is aligned with the subjective indicator of insufficient temperature” and “it seems appropriate to confirm that, when a family declares that it cannot maintain its home in at least comfortable conditions in winter, it is in hidden energy poverty”.
In addition, 2021 was, on the one hand, the year of the beginning of the end of Covid and the beginning of the energy price crisis, which “has had a very significant impact on our households, especially since the fall. Everything indicates that many households have limited their spending for fear of bills that could become unaffordable overnight.” No. The increase in the so-called pool, which once again broke all records in 2022, has been directly transferred to the regulated rate, the voluntary price for small consumers (PVPC), which is an essential requirement to get the social bonus.
The report also highlighted that “regional differences are once again huge, which invites us to explore the roots of these inequalities and do everything possible to reduce them.” In Andalusia, severe hidden energy poverty (households using less energy due to poverty and not for other reasons) reaches 19% of households. It has a “very favorable winter climate”, but low access to air conditioning among the lowest incomes and “high demand for refrigeration and insufficient income levels create a perfect breeding ground for the spread of hidden energy poverty.”
After the invasion of Ukraine, with additional measures such as a cap on gas and the strengthening of social bonuses, vulnerable and severely vulnerable consumers pay “the same as before the war”, the government says. The autumn economic forecasts published by the European Commission last week indicate that, in terms of the significant deterioration of energy poverty indicators across the EU, Spain will be one of the European countries in which they will worsen the least.
The Ministry of Environmental Transition has been pending since last October 15 to publish official indicators of energy poverty, which it has already published in 2021 with a significant delay.
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