Energy poverty – What is it, definition and concept

Energy poverty is a situation in which a family does not have the necessary resources to pay for their basic energy expenses. Or it may also be that the household is obliged to allocate an excessive part of its income to this type of service.

In other words, a family that suffers from energy poverty does not have sufficient income, or must allocate almost all of its resources, to pay the energy rates that allow them to satisfy their essential domestic requirements.

When we refer to basic energy costs, we are including electricity, heating, hot water, and the energy consumption of household appliances such as the kitchen or the refrigerator. However, other services such as telephony or the Internet are not included.

The characteristics of energy poverty vary depending on the type of country we are analyzing. For example, in the developed world, according to the Association for Environmental Sciences, it is often related to an inability to pay energy bills.

However, in developing countries there is a lack of access to services. That is, in many cases they do not even have electricity, for example. This can happen particularly in rural areas or areas far from urban centers.

Causes of energy poverty

Among the causes of energy poverty we can highlight:

  • Low household income.
  • Inexistence of a public policy to ensure affordable rates for families with fewer resources. This, for example, through a subsidy or bonus.
  • Lack of access to services such as electricity or heating.
  • Inadequate infrastructure. It may be that the house does not have facilities that allow energy saving, for example, with LED lighting.
  • Finally, without downplaying the factors mentioned above, it is essential to manage energy consumption judiciously. That is, take measures to save energy, such as turning off electronic devices when they are not being used.
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Why is it important to address this topic?

It is important to address the issue of energy poverty because it is directly related to people’s quality of life. If a group of citizens cannot access adequate heating in winter, for example, they may suffer health problems, particularly those related to the respiratory system.

Likewise, energy poverty accentuates social gaps or inequalities. This is because the population with fewer resources also becomes the one with less access to basic services, such as electricity, and, therefore, their level of well-being is reduced.

Another issue that we cannot fail to observe is that, as we mentioned before, sometimes energy poverty implies that the person can cover their energy expenses. However, it does so at the cost of allocating an excessive amount of resources. As a result, your disposable income, which you could use for other expenses, is reduced.

In other words, to understand it in simpler terms, perhaps the family can pay their energy rates, but they no longer have money left for other purposes that can also be important, such as the children’s education. Thus, household welfare is reduced.

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