A new study has shed further light on the state of energy poverty in the UK, where approximately 2.7 million elderly people in the UK alone rationed their energy usage last winter, in order to meet their energy bills despite the price cap being revised.
But the problem is not a new one, and by no means only restricted the UK:
A 2016 case where an 81 year-old Spanish woman, forced to revert to candles after her power was cut, tragically died in a fire caused by her last source of heat and light causing a major outcry. As at 2016, Spain was the fifth most expensive country for heating and electricity in Europe, but comparative basic incomes are also lower than more expensive countries, such as Denmark, Germany, Ireland and Italy exacerbating the problem.
A 2017 study entitled “Health, Well-Being and Energy Poverty in Europe: A Comparative Study of 32 European Countries” pointed out that older people are more prone to health conditions, and spend more time in their homes thus requiring more heating, and energy inefficient homes are linked to increased rates of winter respiratory disease which can prove fatal.
A 2018 study by the UK Office for National Statistics showed excess winter mortality continued to be highest in females and people aged 85 and over, and 34.7% of all excess winter deaths were caused by respiratory diseases.
Despite warmer temperatures expected in the UK, nearly half of the over-65’s surveyed stated concern that icy weather will see spikes in energy costs, and 12% doubt they’ll be able to afford an increase in energy bills, and almost 33% are either on a variable tariff, or not sure what deal they have.
Approximately 54% of participants reported seeing no change in their bills, despite the price cap being in place, with only 3% seeing a drop in their bill.
Peter Earl, head of energy at Compare the Market, said: “Nobody should be forced to sacrifice their health in order to heat their home and especially not some of the most vulnerable members of our society, the elderly.
“Cold weather and the resulting financial and health problems are a real issue for older people, who have to worry about cold temperatures every year. It should be an absolute priority to ensure that they are able to afford their energy costs and appropriately heat their home.”