Energy poverty expected to affect millions as prices ramp up   

By Ion Ilasco

Energy poverty expected to affect millions as prices ramp up   

The demand for energy in Europe is growing quickly as countries recover from the COVID-19 crisis. Natural gas represents the most important energy source in Europe highlighted by a dependency rate of 83.5% in 2020. As a consequence of Russia slowing the delivery of piped gas to the EU, the price for 1,000 cubic meters of gas reached nearly US$1,250 in October 2021 or six times higher than last year. In these circumstances, the issue of energy poverty becomes pertinent, as more people around the globe will suffer from the inability to afford adequate, affordable, and reliable energy services. This article defines energy poverty, highlights its implications, and presents some facts and statistics related to the current energy situation around the globe.

What is energy poverty?

The concept of poverty is difficult to define due to its complex and multidimensional nature. In general terms, poverty refers to the situation when a person lacks the necessary resources to meet basic needs such as food, clean water, clothing, and shelter. In this context, energy poverty can be defined as the inability to afford adequate, affordable, and reliable energy services sufficient to satisfy domestic needs. Thus, households that spend more than 10% – 15% of their monthly or yearly income on energy are generally considered to be energy poor. The occurrence of energy poverty can affect both developing and developed countries which is hindering the achievement of the United NationsSDG7 goal which is that of ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all.

See also: Global poverty statistics and facts

Implications of energy poverty

Energy poverty has a direct and indirect impact on the quality of living at both individual and household levels. The members of an energy-poor household will be more prone to experience severe health problems such as asthma, heart diseases, or strokes, according to researchers. Moreover, indoor air pollution caused by the usage of traditional fuel sources (e.g., wood, coal) can lead to an increased risk of morbidity and mortality. Energy access correlates with the availability and consumption of goods and services and the lack of it can deepen the magnitude of economic poverty. Children who grow up in households affected by energy poverty are more likely to encounter problems related to education as the lack of electricity will diminish the possibility of studying at night.

Energy poverty in the world

  • Around 30 million Europeans were living in energy poverty in 2019 and the ongoing pandemic and energy crises are expected to make things worse;
  • Countries such as Bulgaria, Lithuania, Greece, Portugal, and Cyprus have the highest share of the population living in energy poverty;
  • About 1 billion people across the world do not have access to electricity;
  • It is estimated that nearly 2.7 billion people still lack access to clean cooking facilities, relying on solid biomass, coal, or kerosene as their primary cooking fuel;
  • About 43% of people living in sub-Saharan Africa do not have access to electricity;
  • One-third of American households struggle to afford the energy they need to heat and cool their homes and to provide lighting and cooking;
  • Millions of households across the UK and the EU will face higher gas and electricity bills this winter;
  • The most vulnerable social groups that are more affected by energy poverty relate to low-income families, single-parent households, the elderly, and social minorities.

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