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Información del Working Paper

The dark side of energy poverty: who is underconsuming and why?

R. Barrella, J.C. Romero, J.I. Linares, E.M. Arenas, M. Asín, E. Centeno


The traditional energy poverty approach is mostly focused on households that spend a disproportionately high share of their income on energy. Nevertheless, vulnerable households often compress their consumption and this ‘hidden face’ of energy poverty is not sufficiently reflected in metrics and policies.
This paper investigates that phenomenon and proposes a novel methodology to determine an absolute threshold below which households’ actual energy expenditures are too low to meet their energy needs. Thereafter, an income criterion is introduced as a proxy to exclude households that are underconsuming for reasons other than lack of affordability. Finally, this article analyses the sensitivity of the results to the assumptions made for the absolute energy threshold.
When applying the methodology to the Spanish case, the results show that, in 2019, 45% of households had low absolute energy expenditures, but only 56% of them (25% of the total households) were suffering from hidden energy poverty. Moreover, there was a wide regional disparity depending on climatology and income, with households living in older dwellings being the most affected. The macro-level analysis carried out in this paper makes it possible to identify hidden energy poverty trends in Spain and might guide policymakers to properly target assistance programs.

Palabras clave: Energy poverty; Modelled energy costs; Hidden Energy Poverty; Energy affordability; Spain

Fecha de Registro: 20/07/2021


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