Understanding the link between energy efficiency and energy poverty in Serbia

Energy security, climate protection and sustainable economic development are topics that have received growing attention in the last decades. Although energy efficiency is an option to address these issues simultaneously, its link to social aspects, in particular energy poverty, is a topic that has been rarely analyzed, especially in the context of energy sector reforms in transition countries. Energy poverty is “(...) the difficulty or inability to ensure adequate heating in the dwelling and to have access to other essential energy services at a reasonable price”, including the capacity to afford hot water, lighting, heating, cooling of food and the use of communication devices.

“The link between poverty and energy poverty is particularly evident in terms of seasonal impacts in cold climates. Winter temperatures affect heating demand and energy prices; if poverty results in inadequate provision of heat for a healthy lifestyle, it ultimately affects the health and productivity of the poorest segments of the population.”

However, there is so far no international definition of energy poverty, since different patterns require a determination of criteria and definitions on a national level. In general, three specific factors influence energy poverty: household income, energy prices and energy efficiency in buildings and household appliances. High energy consumption due to low energy efficiency can have negative financial effects on households, particularly if incomes are low. If these factors are further coupled with high energy prices, a household’s ability of paying the energy bills and affording the required energy services is substantially affected.

Measuring and quantifying energy poverty can be a difficult task due to the lack of available and reliable data and statistics. Possible indicators to support estimations of energy poverty are e.g. the percentage of the population in bill arrears, the number of homes with problems affecting the buildings as well as the percentage of households unable to keep the home properly heated. In Europe, it is estimated that 50 - 125 million people live under energy poor conditions.

The paper gives an overview of energy poverty in Serbia and discusses policies that (are supposed) to address it