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Información de la Tesis Doctoral

Addressing energy poverty in an integrated way. An interdisciplinary characterisation of Spanish vulnerable households and proposal for implementing feasible technical and policy solutions

Roberto Barrella

Dirigida por J.I. Linares, J.C. Romero

05 de julio de 2022


Nowadays, energy is often conceptualised as a basic good for full human development, as well as a strategic and geopolitical issue. Indeed, the lack of affordable energy makes people unable to live a decent life and adequately participate in society. Thus, addressing this type of deprivation called energy poverty by improving people’s affordability and access to this primary good is one of the unsolved issues of the modern world.

This thesis aims to contribute to the literature on energy poverty in a developed country such as Spain by proposing an interdisciplinary approach to assess and tackle this issue within the European framework.

Therefore, a bottom-up model of Spanish households’ required energy expenditures (RENE) is proposed as a tool to enhance the ‘energy diagnosis’ in energy-poverty studies. Thereafter, some of its direct and indirect applications are presented. Firstly, this thesis applies the model to analyse the winter energy needs at the provincial level and carries out an energy characterisation of a sample of vulnerable families attended by a Spanish NGO. Moreover, the model’s implementation into an energy expenditures’ assessment tool for vulnerable (and non-vulnerable) households is described. Secondly, this work presents a novel methodology to estimate the extent and depth of hidden energy poverty (i.e. the HEP indicator), intended as an energy underspending issue, and applies it to the Spanish case study. Thirdly, the techno-economic feasibility of electrically and thermally driven centralised air-water heat pumps is studied to propose them as alternative solutions for vulnerable households living in block dwellings. Finally, this thesis assesses the effectiveness of some of the main short- and medium-term energy poverty policies implemented in Spain and proposes alternative aids that would enhance the fight against this social issue in the country.

The RENE model and its applications have led to several insights, and multiple lessons have been learned during this scientific journey, which can be abstracted as follows. Hidden energy poverty is a dimension of the overall issue that cannot be overlooked. Indeed, the high values of the proposed HEP indicator in Spain imply that there is a large number of households affected by energy poverty that are not benefitting from any national support scheme. Moreover, this work points out that the effective design and implementation of heating allowances is a crucial issue to reduce the energy burden of these people in the short term. However, energy consumption subsidies should be temporary solutions complemented by structural energy efficiency measures in the medium to long term.  Eventually, this ‘rolling’ policy strategy could avoid cronifying energy poverty by improving the energy efficiency of vulnerable households at an affordable social cost. In this regard, according to the feasibility study presented in this thesis, the centralised air-water heat pumps can be considered promising systems to tackle energy vulnerability in Spanish block dwellings.

Overall, this work might contribute to enhancing the identification and tackling of energy poverty in the case study country, and, more generally, the highlighted conclusions and policy recommendations could be helpful insights for European stakeholders to design and implement efficient policies and strategies at national and EU level.

Resumen divulgativo:

Esta tesis propone un enfoque interdisciplinar para evaluar y abordar la pobreza energética en España en el marco de la UE. Se propone un modelo ascendente del gasto energético requerido por los hogares (RENE) y se presentan algunas de sus aplicaciones directas e indirectas.

Descriptores: Pobreza, Otras, Energía, Rehabilitación de edificios

Palabras clave: Energy poverty, Residential energy use, Bottom-up modelling, Energy poverty indicators, Heat pumps, Policy evaluation

R. Barrella (2022), Addressing energy poverty in an integrated way. An interdisciplinary characterisation of Spanish vulnerable households and proposal for implementing feasible technical and policy solutions. Madrid (España).

Acceso a Repositorio público