The four main indicators used by the Government to measure energy poverty improved in 2019, the year prior to the coronavirus crisis, according to the latest update whose publication is finalized by the Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge.
The analysis carried out shows, according to the ministry, that “all the indicators are reduced in 2019 compared to 2018, and are at values similar or lower than those of 2016 after the rebound observed in 2017.”
The ministry has pending to publish these data since last October 15, according to the National Strategy against Energy Poverty (ENPE) 2019-2024. According to the Ecological Transition, “the data indicate the progress that is being made in the fight against this problem and reflect the effectiveness of the action measures established by the ENPE, which began to be implemented in 2018.” Last year, in the first update of that data, two of the four indicators worsened, relative to the so-called hidden energy poverty in homes (which implies an absolute energy expenditure lower than half the national median) and the percentage of the population with difficulties in heating their home in winter.
In 2019, “the decrease in the values of inadequate temperature in the house in winter and the delay in the payment of bills for housing supplies stands out, especially. It also decreases the indicator of disproportionate spending and that of hidden poverty in homes” , indicates the ministry.
The problems that most affect households are disproportionate energy expenditure (an energy expenditure on income greater than twice the national median) and hidden energy poverty. In 2019, 16.7% of Spanish households had a disproportionate energy expenditure, compared to 16.9% the previous year. In addition, 10.6% of households were affected by hidden energy poverty, 0.4 percentage points less than in 2018.
On the other hand, 7.6% of the population had problems keeping their home at an adequate temperature in winter, a figure that improves 1 and a half percentage points compared to 2018. Likewise, 6.6% of the population had delays in the payment of bills for household supplies, a value that reflects the greatest decrease in recent years: 0.6 percentage points.
Both the disproportionate spending and the percentage of homes that cannot maintain a suitable temperature in winter reflect the level of energy efficiency of the homes. The indicators of hidden energy poverty and the percentage of households with late payment of bills are directly related to the need for a short-term benefit measure that guarantees electricity supply. These indicators obtain higher values in homes with unemployed people, with low incomes -of the first quintile-, in flats with old rental income and in homes without heating.
It is to be expected that the economic catastrophe of the coronavirus has increased energy poverty in Spain. On September 29, the Government approved the inclusion of a new assumption of the Electric Social Bonus (which offers discounts in the electricity bill to certain groups) within the framework of the measures to expand the so-called Social Shield, the rest remaining in force of cases of access to this voucher.
“In the context of this crisis, we have to work much more and better within the ENPE framework. That is why we have already activated the mechanisms to facilitate the early recognition of the condition of energy vulnerability so that these people can benefit from everything that Strategy foresees, from prohibitions of supply cuts to reductions in the bill, with notice periods for the consumer that does not reach the category of extreme vulnerability ”, according to the fourth vice president, Teresa Ribera.
The inclusion of this assumption allows, from October 1, to access the Social Electricity Bonus to households in which at least one member of the family unit is unemployed, is included in an ERTE or has seen a reduction your working day for care reasons. Also to entrepreneurs facing similar circumstances that involve a substantial loss of income. To qualify, the income criteria of the social bond are taken into account and a responsible declaration from the holder is enough to access the benefit.
According to the ministry, this new assumption of the bond “accelerates and anticipates the recognition of vulnerability to those affected by this crisis and concentrates protection on them” and “aims to continue expanding the accompanying measures after the end of the extension of prohibition of electricity, water and gas cuts for all households in the first declaration of the State of Alarm “, from March 14 to September 30.
In addition, households benefiting from the Social Electricity Bonus will receive the Social Thermal Bonus in 2021 to defray the costs of air conditioning.
After lifting the generalized prohibition of supply cuts in case of non-payment, the supply cut to the beneficiaries of the social bonus is prohibited in certain cases, such as there are minors, dependents or people with disabilities in the home.