Energy poverty, a matter of concern for older people


Photo(cropped) by Riccardo Annandale on Unsplash

As energy prices skyrocket, millions of European are forced into unacceptable choices between heating and paying their rent, warns the European Anti-Poverty Network. Older people living with low pensions make no exception to the rule.

“We received a call from a lady who asked in a shaky voice how much the minimum subsistence level is now. She confided that she had no money to pay for her energy bills, that her original energy supplier had gone bankrupt, and she had now received a bill from a new supplier for CZK 15,000 a month, which she was unable to pay from her pension. She is afraid of what will happen to her now.”
told Aneta Mundok Nitschová, head of the Senior Phoneline operated by ZIVOT90.

Older people at risk of energy poverty

In Czech Republic, older people form the largest group who will be affected by the increase in energy prices: one-fifth of them are at risk of housing shortages due to increased energy costs. And so, while older people already represent two-fifths of households burdened by excessive housing costs.

In the Netherlands, three-quarters of older people are concerned about the rising energy costs and what that means for their own situation in the Netherlands.

The situation was again recalled by one of our members speaking at a debate on pensions:

“The system in place doesn’t allow them [older women with low incomes] to live in dignity when they retire. We don’t want to old oil heaters in our homes anymore and need to replace them with better insulation for the house, etc. But what is affordable for a widow?”
said Anne-Sophie Parent, member of the Older Women’s Network.

Climate and social protection go hand-in-hand

The pandemic only exacerbated the need to bridge energy and social protection policies. As people were confined at home, most of them increased their energy use.

In Slovenia, the Federation of Pensioners’ Associations of Slovenia (ZDUS) co-signed a letter to the government flagging that the loss of income had increased the risk of energy poverty for many people. Their call for action was clear:

  • prohibit the disconnection of electricity and gas during the pandemic;
  • allocate emergency funding for households receiving social assistance;
  • repay debts owed to energy suppliers if the debt is due to the customer’s unemployment or a significant reduction in the customer’s income at the time the pandemic.

In Germany, the National Association of Senior Citizens’ Organisations (BAGSO) clearly states that energy efficiency must ensure contribute to both climate protection and cost savings for end consumers. In return, it is critical that “pension and annuity funds no longer invest in fossil energies and that investors [are] informed about alternatives.”

“Don’t only make flats energy sustainable, but also work on making them sustainable for senior citizens. That is desperately needed, especially at a time when living at home for longer is the norm.”
stressed Marcel Sturkenboom, director of KBO-PCOB.

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