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Energy Poverty Advisory Hub
News article9 December 2022Directorate-General for Energy4 min read

New EPAH report on national Indicators - What are the insights from this review to measure energy poverty?

Accurate diagnosis is underlined as one of the crucial steps toward tailoring policy strategies and instruments that effectively reduce the risk and incidence of energy poverty in the European Union. This energy poverty diagnosis should be anchored in a set of diverse indicators that portray the different causes and facets of this issue at different scales.

Realising the need for a comprehensive and updated set of macro indicators to help Member-states in their national strategies, the EU Energy Poverty Advisory Hub (EPAH) team reviewed the indicators previously selected by the EU Energy Poverty Observatory (EPOV). Firstly, the information regarding the designation, definition, unit of measurement, geographical entities, and data sources was retrieved and analysed. After tracking down the data sources and original datasets, the indicators were updated with new data for recent years when available. Moreover, the designation and unit of several indicators were revised to match the original source, indicators’ disaggregation was standardized, and some indicators were grouped, aiming to simplify the overall organisation and improve clarity and readability. Overall, the past 28 indicators selected by EPOV were reorganized and converted into a total of 21 indicators without removing any of the original indicators.

The final indicators were then described according to their current definition, and latest results; their strengths, limitations, and use cases for energy poverty measurement were also investigated and assessed based on state-of-art scientific literature and the knowledge and experience of various energy poverty experts across Europe.

This analysis has shown that there is a diverse set of indicators for portraying the different dimensions of energy poverty, including quantitative and qualitative indicators, although arguably with distinct levels of comprehensiveness. In fact, the economic dimension is thoroughly represented by indicators such as arrears of utility bills; M/2; 2M; at-risk-of-poverty; or the energy expenses indicator; which provide different and complementary information. On the other hand, the buildings’ and equipment's energy efficiency are not so well represented – the indicators living population living in a dwelling with the presence of leak, damp, and rot; dwellings with heating system; dwellings with air conditioning, and dwellings with energy label A, although useful, are arguably insufficient for portraying a complete picture of this dimension. Important indicators such as the population living in dwellings comfortably warm in the winter time; and the analogous for the summertime, which effectively portrays thermal comfort in the home, only have data for 2012, hence are not suited to be included in energy poverty diagnosis and monitoring for the present time.

This is an example that shows the importance of data availability and regular updates, clearly evidenced in this report. Indicators are often available for different periods, which hinders the construction of a measurement approach that can rely on the diverse range of indicators hereby presented. Therefore, it would be relevant to resume data collection for updating outdated indicators to enable cross-analysis of the different indicators for uncovering more details on the potential causes of vulnerability. The need for a higher connection between indicators also became evident linking causes and consequences. It would be relevant to tie indicators such as the inability to keep the home warm to expenditure; arrears; or the presence of leak, damp and rot in the dwelling to understand if any of the latter could be the direct cause of a potential problem. This would mean that some questions would be a follow-up to others, and it would be possible to know what the same respondents reported for the different indicators.

Moreover, disaggregation is also highlighted as paramount, as it provides more nuanced and thorough perspectives, enabling the identification of more specific problems and vulnerable groups within a larger population. Therefore, introducing disaggregation in other indicators would be beneficial for going deeper into an energy poverty assessment. In other indicators, additional units could also be useful, such as in energy prices indicators, where for instance, the unit Purchasing Power Standard could enable a more informative comparison between countries.

The results of this thorough review can also be found in the new dashboard of indicators under the Observatory’s national energy poverty indicators section of the EPAH website. Future inclusion of additional indicators and the respective analysis in the dashboard should also be considered, aiming to introduce new information that would support an improved energy poverty diagnosis at the national and local scales, capable of effectively capturing its multidimensionality and complexity.

The report aims to take a first but decisive step towards establishing an updated comprehensive and informative platform on energy poverty measurement indicators, with constructive insights to help Member-states and European countries select the most appropriate indicators for their contexts and populations and build an effective framework for energy poverty diagnosis and monitoring. The value of the indicator analysis presented in this report goes beyond the national scale, as these indicators can also be used for energy poverty measurement at other spatial scales if data is available.


Publication date
9 December 2022
Directorate-General for Energy