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Addressing fuel poverty

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Analyst Brief - November 2019

Energy poverty, or fuel poverty, is often defined as a situation where low-income households are not able to adequately provide basic energy services in their homes and for their transport at affordable cost. A widely used criterion is to consider a household in fuel poverty when it spends more than 10% of its income on energy.  But there is no consensus on a unique and explicit definition of the phenomenon as it is complex and has different causes and effects (temperature feelings, restriction behaviour…).


Still, fuel poverty is a major issue in emerging as well as in developed countries. In Europe, around 20% of households (i.e. ~50 million) were considered affected by fuel poverty in 2018. Because of this situation, there is a growing concern on energy poverty which results in a multiplication of policy measures to address the issue.


A recent approach to address fuel poverty, especially in Europe, is to focus mainly on space heating, the first energy use in buildings, and sometimes also on transport. There is a growing concern about energy poverty in EU countries, which results in a multiplication of policy measures addressing the issue: around 200 measures are currently being implemented.


The report also discusses how to monitor energy poverty through the EU Energy Poverty Observatory which has been launched in 2018 by the European Commission and other Energy Poverty Observatories.

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