ASSIST is a 36-months European market activation and policy orientation project to tackle energy poverty and support vulnerable consumers. Its aim is to both actively engage consumers with the energy market, helping them to positively change their behaviour in relation to energy consumption as well as influence the design of policy relating to energy poverty.
In order to fulfil its goals, the project foresee very diversified, but correlated, research, networking activities as well as in-field actions, consistent with the relevant national and European-wide scenarios.
As a key preparatory phase for the development of the national and local actions, ASSIST consortium has prepared a market behavioural segmentation to classify population into homogeneous clusters, with the final objective to assign vulnerable consumers into market groups who share common characteristics. This will lead to a complete understanding of the current situation under different aspects: socio-demographic, economic and dwelling characteristics of consumers, but also consumers’ degree of knowledge, common needs and priorities regarding energy.
When analysing who suffers energy poverty in Europe, the main conclusion that can be drawn from ASSIST work is that there is no uniform approach to the definition of energy poverty and to the segmentation of the end users in such condition in different countries. However, even if there are significant differences in the approach of the different countries, some final considerations can be drawn.
It is impossible to use the same methodology for the segmentation in all the analysed countries. Some countries apply a detailed segmentation, performed by different bodies (universities, governments, etc.). This is the case of Belgium, Spain and the UK. For other countries, it was necessary to use internal resources in order to perform statistical analyses of the data collected either by the project partners or by other bodies. This is mostly the case of Finland and Italy. For Poland, a combination of different studies and statistical data analysis has been used.
The amount of people affected by energy poverty in all countries is quite high. For example, in Belgium, with the least inclusive indicator, at least 3.9% of the population is energy poor, and considering all the indicators and the possible overlaps, the number increases to 21%; in Finland, for sure at least 3% of the investigated people were energy poor and at least 12% were at risk of energy poverty.
In Italy the situation is more complicated. However, it is significant that at least 4% of the population has a high probability to have a yearly energy expense much higher than the yearly food expense, while 8% has high probability of being totally unable to reach 75% of the minimum comfort. Moreover, a further 21% has a medium probability of having an energy expense higher than food expense and of being unable to reach the minimum level of comfort.
In Poland, it is estimated that around 12% of the population is in energy poverty, while in Spain, according to the least inclusive indicator, the minimum number of energy poor is 8% of the population, while considering the most inclusive the amount increases to 17%. In the UK, where the issue has been taken care for a longe time, than in the other countries, a surprising result is that in 2015 the number of fuel poors increased of 0.4% with respect to 2014, reaching 11% of the population.
The categories o people most affected by energy poverty differs from country to country; however, some common features can be identified. First of all, people living in rented houses are more at risk than those who own the house where they live. In most countries, single parents and unoccupied people are more at risk than other categories, while old people are less affected than these categories. In all the countries, there are significant differences among the different regions, so there is no uniform distribution of energy poverty on a country scale.
Finally, some recommendations can be drawn:
There is a widespread need of aligned and complete data about households situation in all the EU MS: these data should comprise information about the structure of the house (e.g. building year, renovation works, adoptedenergy efficiency measures), about income, about energy expenses (both in € and kWh or equivalent energy units), about family habits and behaviours;
There is the need of common indicators that cover all the possible issues related to energy poverty; however, this can be accomplished only with the availability of data that are the same for each MS;
In some countries (e.g. Italy, Finland), higher attention shall be put to the issue of energy poverty, from policy makers and central governments, in order to have a full mapping of the phenomenon and to solve the lack of data and indicators mentioned above.
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