Energy poverty in the private rented sector: needs assessment

To get an authentic insight into the state of play on energy poverty in the PRS in ENPOR countries and beyond, we have conducted a preliminary desk research and gathered 22 questionnaire responses from Croatia, Greece, Belgium, Estonia, Germany, Italy, Austria and the Netherlands.

The questionnaire, completed by key national experts on energy poverty, provides insight into relevant policies and demonstrates the complexity of identifying and combating energy poverty in the PRS. Given the non-uniform definitions and criteria for energy poverty, the identification of target groups is done via questionnaires or secondary data, i.e. unemployment rates.

Some countries are leading, with Belgium having set scientific criteria and the UK using demographic risk factors. Other MSs are aware of the issue (i.e. Greece, Poland, Germany) while other MSs are unaware or denying the existence of energy poverty (i.e. Estonia), and others, such as Italy, consistently with the approach also adopted in the UK, defines energy poverty as a combination of low income and high energy costs.

As to the cause of energy poverty, there is a high heterogeneity within responses, but overall agreement that specific groups are more vulnerable than others (i.e. single parents, elderly and migrants).

ENPOR countries implement several policies (see below), but there is still a lack of systematic impact monitoring, although respondents agree on positive health impacts and distributional effects, consumer rights, social cohesion and environmental protection.

Very significantly, the questionnaire enquired on barriers that need to be overcome in ENPOR. These barriers range from bureaucratic to behavioural; from trust to effectiveness; and from financial to appropriate design.

Specifically, these comprise:

  • Complicated procedures and bureaucracy problems;
  • Discontinued schemes that do not generate trust and interest;
  • Insufficient financial means and lack of interest in the private sector;
  • The connection between renovation and savings and health impacts is not always evident to tenants;
  • Measures do not have the alleviation of energy poverty as a primary target but aim to reduce the economic burden of the households;
  • Difficulty in the identification of energy-poor households, which is crucial to design, implement, monitor and measure the appropriate policies and measures;
  • Behavior changes need to be combined with refurbishment to ensure savings;
  • Savings might not occur in energy-poor households due to the rebound effect, so there is sometimes low interest (or no financial motivation) to participate in policies;
  • Renovated properties are rented out to wealthier tenants;
  • Hard to achieve consensus among the majority of tenants in a building;
  • Lack of support among the general population;
  • Lack of targeted community engagement programs;
  • Fragmentation of initiatives.

List of policies for and related to energy poverty

  • AUSTRIA – Energy Efficiency Act (2015 – ); Tariff calculator; Electricity labelling system; Dynamic Pricing; Awareness raising; Protected customer revision; Energy Loan (2006 -); Grants for social insulation projects for rental buildings (2016 – ); Heating Costs Accounting (1992 – ); Energy consultations for low income households (2011 – ); Heating allowance; Electricity help fund (2009 – ); Low-threshold, target group-specific consulting
  • CROATIA – Compensation of energy costs of vulnerable customers; Capacity building for eliminating energy poverty (Envisioned); Programme for elimination of energy poverty (Envisioned); Energy renovation programme for multi-apartment buildings (Envisioned)
  • ESTONIA – Subsistence benefit; Reconstruction grant for apartment associations; Small residential home reconstruction grant (Private home renovation support); Small residential home heating system renovation grant (2014 – 2018); Electrical system renovation support; Housing grant for families with many children; District Heating Act Electricity Market Act and Natural Gas Act distinctions; Advisory unit for adult social welfare (2019 – )
  • GERMANY – Energy consulting for low-income households (electricity savings check) (2016-); Loan for modernisation of living space; Climate premium Bielefeld; Basic social support; Social Residential Tariff
  • GREECE – Improvement of the Social Household Tariff and launching of the Universal Service (2011 – ); One-off special aid (2017); Heating allowance (2012 – ); Energy Efficiency at Household Buildings Programme III (2011- ); Energy Card (Envisioned); Provision of incentives to market-based instruments (i.e. EEOs and Energy Communities) (Under implementation, Update-Reform)
  • ITALY – Electricity social bonus (2008 – ); Electricity bonus for physical hardship(2009 – ); Gas social bonus (2009 – ); Tax deductions for energy renovation(2007 – ); Electricity tax exemption (1993 – ); Heating tax relief (1998- ); National Training and Information Energy Efficiency Programme (2016- )
  • THE NETHERLANDS – Incentive scheme to improve energy performance of social housing (2014 -); Energy Box (2014 – ); Energy Bank (2015 – ); Energy legion (2014 – ); Disconnection protection households (2011- )