Why energy poverty is likely to skyrocket this winter

The winter will be harsh for the most precarious French people. In anticipation of the Day against fuel poverty, which will take place on Thursday 24 November, several associations working to combat exclusion have launched an alert on Thursday, fearing a sharp rise in fuel poverty in the coming months. Because this is the result of three factors: low resources, poorly insulated housing and high energy prices.

However, since the start of the war in Ukraine, the sanctions against Russia have had an impact on the supply of gas and the price of electricity. Moreover, half of the French nuclear reactors being now shut down, electricity production is lower. Between the second quarters of 2021 and 2022, energy prices (electricity, gas and petroleum products combined) thus jumped by 28% for households.

A tariff shield that will only limit the increase

Admittedly, the government will extend the tariff shield in 2023, which will limit the increase in gas and electricity prices to 15%. But this increase will not have the same impact for everyone “French bills should increase by an average of 20 to 25 euros per month”, predicts Nicolas Nace, energy transition campaign manager at Greenpeace France.

The note will be even saltier for the inhabitants of the 5.2 million energy colanders in France. These energy-intensive dwellings, classified F and G on the Energy Performance Diagnosis (DPE) scale, generally have insulation defects. “We can predict that for the inhabitants of these accommodations, the increase in bills will be more of the order of 50 or 100 euros per month”, indicates Nicolas Nace.

61% of French people fear being cold at home

This social context is all the more worrying as fuel poverty was already on the rise in our country before the energy crisis: “20% of households, or 12 million people, were already victims of fuel poverty. And the cuts or reduction of energy for unpaid had increased from 550,000 in 2020 to 785,000 in 2021”, indicates Christophe Robert, sociologist and General Delegate of the Abbé-Pierre Foundation.

The French themselves express their concerns about winter. According to an Ifop poll for Atlantic * published this Thursday, 61% of them fear being cold in their accommodation (whereas last winter, they were only 37%), and 95% of them say they are worried about the rising cost of energy. They already know that they are going to have to restrict themselves: 68% will only heat certain rooms, 73% intend to lower the temperature inside their home, and 71% will delay the time of switching on the heating. “The increase in the price of basic necessities from 12 to 15% will put them in the face of impossible arbitrations”, also underlines Christophe Robert.

Strengthen the tariff shield for the poorest?

And this fuel poverty will not be without impact on their health. “They are more at risk of developing respiratory diseases, allergies, asthma and anxiety disorders,” says Christophe Robert.

Faced with this observation, the government has developed measures in recent years to support households affected by fuel poverty: Energy check, MaPrimeRenov… But to cope with the coming winter, we should go further, believe the associations. First of all by giving up a homogeneous tariff shield, by making sure that it helps the most fragile households. “If you earn 5,000 euros, + 15%, it is absorbable. But for the poorest households, 15% will not pass, ”underlines Christophe Robert.

Increasing the APL, another solution

Another request: to increase personalized housing assistance (APL) by 10% for the most modest households, with a doubling of the fixed charges. Knowing that they were revalued by 3.5% last July. But it’s not enough, believes Christophe Robert: “We must also increase the amount of the energy voucher, which currently varies between 48 and 277 euros per year. You have to go up to 800 euros for the poorest”. In 2022, 5.8 million households received it. But only 81% of beneficiaries have used it, which means fighting against non-use.

The associations are finally calling for an end to power cuts this winter. Although EDF already made this commitment last March, the Foundation would like all operators to follow suit. And that the government intensifies its fight for the renovation of thermal colanders by ensuring that there is a zero-charge rest for the most precarious.

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