Ideas based on the thesis of Adèle Sebert, PhD Qualifications and support for fuel poverty. Institutionalist economic analysisReceived funding from the Environmental Transition Agency (Ademe).
Fuel poverty: a complex definition
Energy poverty was officially defined in France after the 2010 Grenelle II Environment Law. This inclusion in the law was made possible thanks to the participation and mobilization of actors concerned about the difficulties of energy access. Working group on climate change and energy management at the 2007 Grenelle environmental forum.
Energy poverty”situation [dans laquelle] A man [qui] experience particular difficulties in their homes in obtaining the energy supply needed to meet their basic needs due to inadequate resources or living conditions “. This definition, based on the right to housing established in the Besson law of 1990, leads to debate on several levels. First of all, regarding the choice of terms: what are the basic needs, how to assess the inadequacy of resources, what are the specific difficulties? Also, the scale of analysis (a person, a household, a place of residence) and with respect to the actors that can determine the state of fuel poverty. We recall that, at least, fuel poverty is the result of a combination of human characteristics, place of residence and access to energy supply.
Fuel poverty is presented on the continuum of Grenelle I law, which combines housing, energy consumption and household economic fragility, with proposed solutions to combat it: “ Energy demand control is a permanent solution to rising energy costs for consumers, especially the poorest households exposed to rising fossil fuel prices. The energy saving program in the housing sector will include targeted measures to combat energy poverty. These solutions are included in the energy demand management (MDE) policy. MDE policies refer to all the systems and measures implemented in France with the aim of organizing downward pressure on energy demand.
These policies have been in place since the oil shocks of the 1970s, particularly in the context of rising energy prices, to promote reductions in energy consumption or to orchestrate a transition in the energy mix (understood as all). primary energy sources necessary for energy consumption) are increasingly based on nuclear-derived electricity and less on fossil fuels.
With such a definition, fuel poverty cannot be reduced to economic poverty. Conversely, any perceived state of poverty does not always mean that a person lacks energy confidence. The whole question then is to know at what levels and by what criteria energy prices become a sufficient condition to render resources or housing unusable because it prevents people from meeting their basic needs. Similarly, when is collective intervention beyond single energy supply legitimate in resolving energy access situations? The current definition of fuel poverty in France does not answer these questions, although it has returned to the political scene in recent months.
More generally, the existing definition allows for the practical classification of fuel poverty situations to be divided into various actions and systems implemented by public and private actors whose activities are related to poverty provision, management and poverty reduction. , and energy renovation of the building. Tackling fuel poverty therefore lies at the intersection of three areas of intervention. However, each of them was historically constructed with its own characteristics and with the participation of various economic and institutional players. The legal definition of energy poverty, as currently defined, invites questioning of the recompositions emerging in these areas of intervention, unless we consider that the management of energy poverty is not subject to a single policy…which remains to be characterized.
Difficult measurement of fuel poverty
In addition to the definition of fuel poverty, the Grenelle II law creates the National Observatory of Fuel Poverty (ONPE). Therefore, definition and measurement body are considered together… without an indication of energy poverty. The observatory’s missions are currently threefold: monitoring fuel poverty and analyzing public policy, contributing to the debate on fuel poverty, and promoting work on this topic. ONPE publishes a Dashboard twice a year based on data reported by its partners.
Energy poverty data is divided between indicators: quantification, context, constraints and monitoring of financial mechanisms. Among these indicators, we find indicators calculated by the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Research (INSEE), as well as data on energy prices, consumption, poverty in living conditions, supplier interventions or the use of Housing Solidarity. Fund (FSL), energy voucher, even energy saving certificates… In fact, the information provided by ONPE is produced by different actors and processes.
In turn, INSEE calculates three energy poverty indicators, called “quantification” according to the meaning of ONPE: Energy Effort Ratio (TEE), Low Income High Cost indicator (BRDE) and coldness (FR). These three indicators are divided by limiting the first three deciles of the income at the disposal of the population. These indicators are produced during the National Housing Survey (ENL), which is conducted every 6 years, and the latest results for 2020 are not yet known. The last available ENL is from 2013.
TEE corresponds to the ratio of total energy costs for housing to total household income. This ratio is compared to a threshold of 8% to assess the household’s situation: if the TEE for a household is greater than 8%, then it is considered to be in a state of fuel poverty. OERD categorizes households based on two criteria: energy costs and living costs. A household with energy costs higher than the average energy cost of French households is considered to be in a state of energy poverty. The perceived coldness indicator is a perceptual indicator: it refers to all households that report feeling cold in their homes. Households are classified according to the number of cold causes they answer positively among the seven possible causes of ENL.
At least, according to estimates based on the 2013 ENL exploitation, when all indicators are combined, poverty affects about 5.1 million households, that is, 12 million French people, that is, one in five French people. Of course, since these indicators are constructed differently, the number of households considered energy poor varies. In 2013, fuel poverty in terms of the top three deciles of disposable income included 1.8 million fuel-poor households in terms of energy effort ratio, and 3.2 million households in terms of low-income high-spending households. and 1.9 million according to the perceptible cold indicator.
Comparing the evolution of these indicators with the 2006 ENL, the energy effort rate indicator shows a decrease in the number of fuel-insufficient households between 2006 and 2013 (2.72 million versus 1.8 million in 2013). If we consider the low-income high-cost indicator, we also see this decrease: 3.42 million in 2006, compared to 3.2 in 2013, while the number of households in a state of fuel poverty, according to the cold indicator, has increased over the same period. 1.29 million to 1.9 million.