Households are increasingly struggling with fluctuating energy prices, leading to instability and rising costs. Currently, energy poverty is being discussed more and more often in Slovakia, the Czech Republic and other countries of Central and Eastern Europe, as well as outside the EU. Nevertheless, in contrast to Western European countries, politicians have not yet sufficiently addressed this problem. The biggest shortcomings are the lack of a conception, starting from national definitions and detailed description of energy poverty, as well as the lack of strategies and action plans aimed at reducing its occurrence and impacts on households. In addition, there is a lack of general awareness of this problem among both professionals and the public. Many high-ranking decision-makers also deny the existence of energy poverty in their countries.
Surprisingly for many, even in Norway, a country considered “energy rich” with cheap hydro and wind power and oil resources, socio-economic problems make energy poverty a relevant topic. In general, relative to purchasing power, energy is cheap and widespread, but in many households belonging to vulnerable groups, a cold winter can really stretch the budget. A study on energy poverty in Norway pointed out that “the human body was used as a bank account”, with people having to follow a strict diet and live in uncomfortable temperatures to save money, causing long-term physical and psychological health problems for the residents of affected households.
European Parliament adopted the EPBD III directive, which sets out the basic principles and requirements leading to a significant reduction in the energy consumption of buildings in the EU. Member States eventually have to implement EPBD III in their legislation and create a set of measures to achieve savings in final energy consumption. Subsequently, various support schemes were introduced, which should help households implement saving measures regarding energy losses in buildings.
Energy poverty has two basic forms. The first is the unavailability of energy sources, which primarily threatens households in less developed countries. Households in Slovakia will probably not be affected by this form, but they will be at risk of the second form of energy poverty, caused by the lack of available funds to cover the energy demand of the buildings. In recent decades, the level of comfort (and consequently energy consumption) in households has increased. The number of appliances has also increased and in general a higher standard of quality is required than ever before (constant temperature, humidity and other air conditioning). To meet all these requirements, it is necessary to pay higher energy costs.
Energy poverty has still not been fully recognized as a problem in all EU member states. This means that some European countries still do not have a definition of energy poverty, and/or adequate policies and measures to address this problem. Energy poverty also has many different definitions that are not standardized on a European scale. “Energy poverty” generally means “a situation where individuals or households are unable to adequately heat or use other required energy services in their homes at an affordable cost.” Lawmakers and academics emphasize the need to uncover the underlying factors that increase the risk of energy poverty. Therefore, the concept of energy vulnerability was developed, which means the risk that the household does not have socially and materially adequate levels of energy services. Energy poverty can take different forms, for example ‘double energy poverty’ and ‘temporary energy poverty’:
- “Temporary energy poverty” is a growing phenomenon that has become more intense in Europe in recent years due to extreme cold and heat waves and rising energy prices. This situation concerns households that spend more than 10% of their disposable income on energy expenses at certain consumption peaks, while these situations are currently more common in middle- and upper-class households;
- “Double energy poverty” in winter and summer is directly related to the effects of climate change. Many people start to worry about the arrival of winter and summer because they have trouble affording the energy to maintain a comfortable temperature in their homes during both seasons.