La solución para luchar contra la pobreza energetica

Energy communities: the solution to fight energy poverty

Energy poverty in Spain has increased a lot in the last year, and the best way to fight it is to create sustainable energy communities in which energy is a resource that everyone can have at their disposal.

 

However, to understand this, it is important to know why this type of poverty occurs, what its consequences are and the benefit that creating energy communities can have.

What is energy poverty?

Energy poverty is not directly related to poverty in general. A household suffering from this type of poverty is unable to access essential energy services because of several factors such as:

  • Low household income 
  • Insufficient quality of housing
  • High electricity prices

This situation is not only suffered by people at risk of exclusion living in disadvantaged neighborhoods (although to a greater extent), but it is a broader poverty that can affect anyone. 

 

For example, people who can meet their basic needs of food and hygiene or household expenses rent/mortgage, but it is difficult for them to meet other payments such as the electricity bill.

Evolution of energy poverty in Spain

Energy poverty is increasing by leaps and bounds in the wake of the covid-19 crisis.

 

According to indicators from the National Strategy against Energy Poverty, in 2020 energy poverty in Spain increased by 3.3 percentage points compared to 2019. Almost 11% of the Spanish population (5.2 million people) could not keep their homes warm in winter. 

 

People suffering from fuel poverty not only have difficulties keeping their home warm, but also have difficulties in coping with the payment of their electricity bills. In 2020 the percentage of Spaniards who claim to have had delays in paying their electricity bill is 9.6% compared to 6.6% in 2019.

 

The following graph shows the evolution of energy poverty since 2017 and the significant increase in 2020.

energy poverty data

Consequences of energy poverty

If some people find it difficult to meet their basic needs, how are they going to pay their electricity bill?

 

This is the daily life of many people who have to face this problem, either because they are out of work or because the income they receive is not enough to pay all their bills.

 

This situation has serious consequences and problems for the individuals who suffer from it:

  • Social inequality. This type of poverty is related to the level of income in the household, which leads to the fact that they cannot keep their home warm in winter, turn on the lights or even heat the food.
  • Diseases. People suffering from fuel poverty are more at risk of suffering from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, flus or colds. This is due to the lack of thermal comfort in their homes.
  • Deaths. It may sound exaggerated, but if we investigate data we can see that the number of deaths due to fuel poverty is more than 7000 people. These deaths especially affect the most vulnerable, which are children and the elderly.
  • Depression. Fuel poverty also affects people’s mental health. The bills they receive every month that they are unable to pay or the threats they receive due to power cuts cause them a lot of stress and anxiety. This produces overwhelming suffering and mental exhaustion for these people.

Comunitaria's project to fight energy poverty in the most
disadvantaged neighborhoods

How do Local Energy Communities work?

There are grants from European Funds to subsidize reforms that improve energy efficiency such as thermal insulation reforms or installation of solar panels. Groups that meet economic and social vulnerability criteria can receive aid of up to 100% of the cost of energy rehabilitation works.

 

This type of refurbishment has been talked about for some time to achieve energy savings in homes. But the creation of energy communities goes much further. It is something more collaborative and participatory between neighbors in the same area. 

 

Can you imagine being able to share energy with your neighbors? Well, this is what you can do by creating a local energy community. 

 

The first thing is to install solar panels on the roofs of buildings, then benefit yourself from the energy that is produced and that is also more sustainable and reduces CO2 emissions. Finally, the energy that has been produced and not consumed can be shared with neighbors in the area, thus generating a shared energy self-consumption.

What are the benefits of creating an Energy Community?

Energy communities not only have a positive impact on the environment, but also help to combat energy poverty:

  • Reduce your electricity bill: You pay only for what you consume (Efficient consumption). 
  • Not only can you benefit from the consumption of that energy: you can share it, benefiting neighbors in the same area.
  • Promotes sustainable circular local economy.
  • Increases citizen participation and collaboration.

To create a greater impact, Comunitaria has created a way to create energy communities using a social currency. But, why relate it to a social currency? Because the energy production is converted into a social currency that is used to purchase fresh food in local commerce. This encourages small businesses and improves the local economy.