Many Spaniards suffer cold to pay bills, even in warm regions

by Lorraine Williamson
suffer the cold to pay bills

In an increasing number of Spanish regions and autonomous cities, residents are suffering cold in their homes to pay other bills. 

It is most common in the following areas;

  • Ceuta (with 33.3%)
  • Murcia (21.4%)
  • Melilla (18.8%)
  • Andalucia (18%)
  • Extremadura (17.6%)
  • Canary Islands (16.7%)
  • Catalonia (15.9%)
  • Valencian Community (15.5%)

This is according to the latest data from the National Strategy against Energy Poverty 2019-2024 by the Spanish Ministry of Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge (MITECO).

The regions least affected by insufficient home temperatures (all below 10%) are as follows;

  • Navarre, (5.5%)
  • Basque Country (7.2%)
  • Aragon (8.5%)
  • Castile and Leon (8.7%)
  • La Rioja (9%)

Between the two extremes (over 10% and under 15%) are the following;

  • Madrid region (11.2%)
  • Cantabria (11.5%)
  • Asturias (11.6%)
  • Galicia (13.1%)
  • Castilla-La Mancha (13.6%)
  • Balearic Islands (14.3%)

Nationwide, the percentage of the population affected by low temperatures in the home rose from 10.9% in 2020 to 14.3% in 2021. Electricity tariffs in Spain and across the European Union spiralled out of control due to rising gas prices. These figures for 2021, the latest published by MITECO, do not yet take into account the 80% increase in electricity prices in 2022. 

Warm regions 

‘All regions with more than 15% housing under-temperature have in common that it is hot,’ Paula Rivas, technical director of Green Building Council Spain (GBCe), told me. She was speaking at the World Energy Day and European Day to Fight Energy Poverty. According to Rivas, this means that homes are not prepared against the cold. At the same time, small changes can solve the problem. The key to fighting energy poverty lies in the efficiency of homes, with buildings well insulated against cold and heat and with efficient air-conditioning systems. 

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Suffering cold to pay bills

According to MITECO, fuel poverty is the situation in which a household finds itself where basic energy supply needs cannot be met due to insufficient income. A situation that sometimes gets worse when people live in energy-inefficient housing. 

There are four indications that allow us to see the development of energy poverty in households from 2018 to 2021. First, when energy expenditure is completely out of balance – people spending more than they should- (decreased from 16.9% to 16.4%) hidden energy poverty – citizens visibly spending very little energy- (11% to 9.3%), too low home temperature in winter, increased from 9.1% to 14.3%, and late payment of home bills, increased from 7.2% to 9.5%. 

Vulnerable sectors most often affected 

‘Increasingly, people from vulnerable sectors are not turning on their heating to pay other bills,’ says Rivas. Between 2020 and 2021, for instance, the number of households left out in the cold rose from 9.7% to 18.3% among single people aged 65 and over. Among households of two adults – certainly one of them 65 years or older – without financially dependent children/grandchildren, the number rose from 8.4% to 13%. 

Really skyrocketing, from 16.4% to 25.1% , is the percentage among one adult with financially dependent children/grandchildren. People with low rent are the most likely to suffer from cold in their homes. The number of households in the cold there increased from 17.7% in 2020 to 32.4% in 2021. 

Renovation as a solution 

In this context, and as the Building Life decarbonisation roadmap mentions, a thorough renovation that ensures the good condition of buildings can be the most effective and structural long-term solution against energy poverty. Of Spain’s 17.5 million households, 25% suffer from this, as stated in the long-term strategy for energy renovation in the building sector in Spain (ERESEE). Financing for these renovations is easier through European funds. However, there is still a lack of information and communication campaigns and specific accompanying measures to make this process easier for the most vulnerable citizens. And to make them fully aware of the importance of renovation. 

‘A habitable home with the best climate conditions and the lowest possible energy consumption is a right for everyone,’ states Dolores Huerta, CEO of GBCe. 

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