Almost 12% of French people (11.9%) had difficulty paying their energy bills in 2019, according to theNational Energy Poverty Observatory (ONPE). In its annual report, published Thursday, January 14, it estimates that at least 3.5 million households are in a situation of fuel poverty. This concerns in particular 30% of the poorest French people.
To obtain these figures, the ONPE combines several elements, including the “Energy effort rate”, that is, the share of energy expenditure in household income. When this rate reaches 8%, the household is considered precarious.
The 2019 result is a little better than that of 2018 (12.1%) due to rather mild winter temperatures, “But this does not prejudge the situation of the poorest”, specifies the ONPE. Despite the drop in energy consumption per dwelling linked to the improvement of heating equipment and the performance of certain homes, the rise in energy prices and the stagnation of purchasing power point to difficult years, notes ONPE. Its experts ” are worried “ the increase in the number of households that suffered from the cold last winter, in particular 18-34 year olds.
Fear of an “explosion of unpaid bills”
It is necessary “Find intervention methods more suited to these situations in order to cushion this economic and health crisis which first of all weakens the most precarious populations and risks pushing them into situations of great poverty”, called Arnaud Leroy, president of the ONPE and the Environment and Energy Management Agency (Ademe).
The number of households encountering energy payment difficulties increased from 10% in 2013 to 18% in 2020, with an increase in interventions for cuts, also notes the ONPE, which quotes the Info-Energie 2020 barometer from the National Energy Mediator. In 2019, 671,546 households saw the intervention of an energy supplier due to unpaid bills (+ 17% compared to 2018).
For 2020, the containment measures have had even greater consequences for households in fuel poverty. The suspension of payment of invoices during an extended winter break “Raises fears of an explosion in unpaid bills and requests for aid from social services”. As for confinement, it favored forced cohabitation in uncomfortable housing, while housing improvement work was slowed down.