In 2010, more than 13% of French households are considered in a precarious energy situation, ie spend more than 10% of their budget on energy-related expenditure. This situation is unfortunately not peculiar to France and the trend is not to improve.
Although in most countries this phenomenon is not regional in character, cities and the local level are particularly involved in its resolution.
But, for cities, this challenge appears very delicate: in fact, energy poverty is developed everywhere on unfavourable grounds, at least for two reasons.
– Affected people live in old homes, few of which have been renovated. These homes have poor or even very poor thermal performance which makes their heating much more expensive than average.
Reducing energy poverty would imply moving the populations concerned to more thermal efficient housing or deeply renovating the homes they occupy. In both cases, the solutions are extremely costly and can not be implemented in the short term.
– Impacted people have a level of awareness and understanding of the impact of their behaviours often quite low.
I saw people in deep energy poverty lowering the ambient temperature of their housing to reduce their bill and, because the temperature gap between the outside and the inside was therefore less sensitive, leave the entrance door open in winter without being aware of the impact of this behaviour on their energy consumption. They thus fuelled a vicious circle where they could only continue to lower the ambient temperature to make their bill acceptable.
Reducing energy poverty also means “training” people who are not always spontaneously receptive, so that they can understand what they can do best from their housing in terms of energy.
These actions are, for human or economic reasons, very complex to implement. Reducing energy poverty is like deploying energy efficiency actions under the most unfavourable conditions: it is a bit of a problem for cities to have to square this circle.