The challenge of maintaining affordable long-term supplies of energy hits hardest at the individual level. And as energy prices rise fuel poverty becomes a greater problem(1). Fuel poverty disproportionately affects those on low incomes.
Low-income households are typically associated with poor home energy efficiency standards, meaning that pensioners, those in poorly paid jobs and the unemployed are more likely to be occupants of properties having inadequate thermal insulation and expensive and inefficient heating systems.
Someone who spends more than 10% of their household income on heating their home is defined as fuel poor(2). Indicators include the inability to pay energy bills or having cold and damp living conditions. Fuel poverty is a significant social problem in the EU - between 50 million and 125 million people(3) are estimated to be fuel poor in Europe.
Policymakers increasingly recognise the potential synergy between policies which tackle fuel poverty, energy efficiency and climate change mitigation. Renovating the existing building stock holds the key to unlocking this potential.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change(4) has highlighted the significant improvements and cost-effective savings potential of residential building stock. Targeted capital expenditure would help lift households out of fuel poverty and indirectly improve the health of the population.
As fuel bills rise, fuel poverty becomes more widespread. Investing in energy efficiency can help the vulnerable to get out of the fuel poverty trap while improving societal health and quality of life.