The rise of fuel poverty as a policy issue across the EU poses questions about whether a common understanding of the concept exists among Member States and the implications of this for developing future strategies and action. The UK and Ireland are regarded as having a reasonably advanced level of debate, but this is not the case among other nations within the Union. While EU policy on common energy frameworks relating to issues such as climate change and energy markets is fairly advanced, fuel poverty has received much less attention. Extant research on the topic is patchy or out of date, and an overview of the current situation is needed.
Key research Question
The study seeks to analyse how the concept of fuel poverty is understood, as represented in policy, in different Member States and at an EU level. It also aims to assess the levels of fuel poverty that exist across the Union and what challenges these factors may create for a collective approach to addressing fuel poverty on a transnational level.
Summary of activity
This report presents a meta-analysis of policy from across the EU and a review of policy and academic and grey literature from Member States on fuel poverty and related topics such as health and wellbeing. Individual country assessments are carried out that detail the environmental, socioeconomic and structural factors affecting each country. In addition, a detailed statistical analysis is included (using various methods such as logistic regression modelling), which is based on the EU Statistics on Income and Living Conditions dataset.
The statistical analysis was used to provide an assessment of fuel poverty in each country using a series of proxy indicators (for example ‘Ability to heat home adequately’, ‘Utility bill arrears’ and ‘Presence of leaks, damp or rot’). All Member States were ranked. In general, countries in Southern and Eastern Europe were found to experience the greatest levels of fuel poverty.
At a transnational level, the study notes that awareness of the concept remains low across the EU and that there is little uniformity in the type or availability of support for at-risk households within the gas and electricity markets.
Noting the limitations in data, the author calls for further research at a national level, particularly around policy decisions and the types of household at most risk of fuel poverty.
To address low levels of awareness, the author recommends a standardised definition of fuel poverty, a common framework of indicators to monitor it and concerted leadership from the centre.