The modern society is entirely energy oriented or rather energy driven. Energy requirements are slowing trickling down to the fundamental day to day activities. This way, it is becoming a basic need. Energy poverty is the incapability to meet one’s threshold energy demands without financial strain. Similarly, it is generally accepted that one can be considered energy poor if they spend more than 10% of their income on energy. All in all, energy poverty is one of the crucial socio-economic problems of the modern world, with significant effects on vulnerable groups of the population. In other words, it expresses the difficulty/inability of a household to sufficiently meet its domestic energy needs due to three main components: high energy cost, low income and energy inefficiency of buildings. As such, in terms of vulnerability, various scholars have indulged in energy poverty analysis, mainly by comparing similar data, i.e. carrying out a comparative analysis of two different surveys, ratio of energy poverty rates.
Unfortunately, such approaches have flopped spectacularly as they fail to satiate the hypothesis; ‘how much more energy vulnerable is a specific population compared to another one’. The energy vulnerability approach has since been developed, however, mainly theoretical studies have been presented, which lack fundamental experimental data to reinforce their findings.
In a recent research report published in Energy & Buildings, Dr. Lefkothea Papada and Professor Dimitris Kaliampakos from the National Technical University of Athens explored the quantitative measurement of energy vulnerability. In particular, the two researchers collaborated to develop the “Vulnerability Index” based on stochastic analysis, in a bid to quantify the vulnerability of a population to the energy poverty ratio, compared to a reference population. Moreover, they worked towards resolving the fundamental flaws encountered during energy vulnerability assessment of a population that hinder progress and accurate data derivations.
To begin with, the authors developed the “Vulnerability Index” based on the previously reported “Stochastic Model of Energy Poverty”, owing to the fact that the latter leads to a more accurate estimation of energy poverty within a population. The developed approach was based on assessment of energy poverty of a given population with respect to another population, as opposed to previous approaches, in which studies were limited to within the specific population. To justify their numerical approach, a case study of the vulnerability of Greek mountainous regions with respect to the country level was undertaken. Sensitivity analysis and pareto analysis were then carried out, in order to quantify the particular contribution of various parameters to the problem, by determining their weighting factors. Lastly, the researchers employed various optimization techniques so as to achieve greater accuracy in their analysis.
The authors reported that the mountainous societies are more vulnerable based on the proportion of income spent on energy when compared to the societies at country level, at 89,7%. Figuratively, they reported 3.5 times more expenditure on heating and about 2 times more expenditure on total energy needs .for the mountainous societies. Such high energy vulnerability was mainly attributed to a combination of factors, i.e. low incomes, old building stock and high heating cost of the mountainous region examined.
In summary, the study by Dr. Lefkothea Papada and Professor Dimitris Kaliampakos presented a novel approach for determining energy poverty. The novel vulnerability index approach was proven beyond reasonable doubt to present an acceptable way of identifying underserved populations as energy vulnerable. Remarkably, the approach can be used as a policy making tool as it highlights the special needs of underserved regions/communities. Altogether, the presented methodology can address social inequalities of vulnerable population groups, in terms of energy poverty.
Lefkothea Papada, Dimitris Kaliampakos. Development of vulnerability index for energy poverty. Energy & Buildings, volume 183 (2019) page 761–771.Go To Energy & Buildings