How to identify energy vulnerable households

Energy poverty – also called fuel poverty – refers to a condition where households have insufficient income to meet the most basic levels of energy needed to provide home heating, lighting, cooking and appliance use (Boardman, 2009). Palmer, Macinnes and Kenqay (2008) point out that not all those who suffer from income poverty are in energy poverty and indeed not all those who are energy poor are necessarily income poor. The condition of energy poverty results from a combination of high energy prices, low household incomes, inefficient buildings and appliances, and specific household energy needs (Bouzarovski, 2014).


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Indicators for energy poverty

The EU Energy Poverty Observatory (EPOV) recommend using a suite of both consensual selfreporting and expenditurebased indicators, which they suggest should be viewed and used in combination. They propose the following four principal approaches to indicating energy poverty:

High share of expenditure income

Households who expend over twice the national median share of their income in meeting energy needs. The metric captures those who expend a disproportionately high amount on energy, indicating a possible prioritisation over other costs.

Inability to keep home adequately warm

This is a basic self-reporting of thermal discomfort, and what might be termed perceived energy poverty.

Low share of energy expenditure in income

Households whose absolute expenditure on energy is less than half the national median. This is also referred to a form of hidden energy poverty (hEP) and captures those households who restrict their energy consumption (and expenditure) below that which would be considered necessary to meet their basic needs.

Arrears on utility bills

This value is based on households’ self-reported inability to pay utility bills on time within the last 12 months.

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