A winter without being able to turn on the heating

Temperatures have reached 10 degrees below zero this week in Belgium. Conditions that are especially difficult for Véronique. This 60-year-old woman living on the Belgian coast does not have the money to heat her home, but today she has no choice.

“I’m saving on heating, today I turn it on because it’s 10 degrees below zero. Otherwise, I usually don’t put it on until 4 or 5 in the afternoon. And when I go to sleep, I turn it off all night and so on every day because it continues being expensive “, explains Véronique Duquese.

Energy poverty is a vicious cycle. This former hairdresser and bar owner has to calculate the minutes she uses the heating and all the expenses. “We have to eat pasta or eggs for a while because we can’t afford anything more. At the beginning of the month I buy a steak because I want a good steak, otherwise I won’t allow it. But it does weigh, when you can afford it … thanks “, assures Duquese.

This precariousness also affects his family life. In winter she can no longer see her six grandchildren. “When the little ones came, they bathed in pairs to save money. I also watch over the water. I take a shower and the next day I wash in the sink so as not to consume too much water,” the woman details.

Energy poverty is a structural problem in the EU. In 2019, more than 30 million Europeans could not afford to heat their homes. That’s the equivalent of the population of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Austria together, according to data from the Jacques Delors Institute. The pandemic has only made the situation worse.

“In fact, the covid crisis has two main impacts. The first is a drop in income, all the people who have part-time jobs, who lose their jobs and have a drop in income. And the other element is that all sanitary measures such as curfews, confinement, teleworking also make people spend much more time at home. And suddenly the need arises to heat the houses more and we find European families who before the crisis were not very rich but they survived well and could heat their homes well and that today, with the COVID crisis, they cannot heat their homes, something that notably favors respiratory diseases ”, explains the director of the Energy Center of the Jacques Delors Institute, Thomas Pellerin -Carlin.

The solution may be an emergency aid for those affected. But a long-term solution is through the rehabilitation of buildings. The European Green Deal, a proposal by the European Commission, plans to subsidize the insulation of the housing stock to improve energy efficiency.