The problems associated with energy poverty and their solutions have similar features in different European countries. The rise in energy prices, which is only gradually and belatedly reaching final consumers, is causing an increase in the number of households at risk of energy poverty. Even before the first gas price increase in October 2021, there were already more than half a million households in the Czech Republic, and this number is estimated to have risen to one million by now, i.e. about one fifth of Czech households. By comparison, in France, the upper estimates speak of more than a quarter of households, but even in the Netherlands, one of the richest countries in the EU, it was 8% of households in 2019. Energy poverty in all countries typically affects similar groups: single-person households and single-parent households.
Measures against fuel poverty are twofold. First, immediate solutions. These are provided by the social security system, in the Czech Republic by housing supplements. Next, one-off allowances per electricity point and an across-the-board capping of energy prices for 2023 at around 2.5 times 2021 prices.
Longer-term measures follow, notably investments in improving the energy efficiency of buildings. These can have a significant impact on reducing the rate of fuel poverty, as energy-poor households live in disproportionately energy-intensive buildings. Support for investments for low-income groups has been embedded in the existing New Green Savings Programme (NGSP) as a sub-programme of the NGSP ‘light’. This is certainly a step in the right direction, however, in the future, it is important to control some of the risks involved, such as: the potential reduction of the standard NZÚ entitlements, the issue of upfront payment linked to the possible refund of the unused part of the subsidy, the quality of the “light” assessments, etc.
Another aspect is that many energy-poor households not only occupy energy-inefficient buildings, but also unnecessarily large ones relative to the number of household members. The solution may lie in increasing the capacity of public rental housing of a sufficient energy standard.