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Survey on the Energy Poverty in Riga

Energy poverty is one of the issues, which has exacerbated in the last few years due to rise in fuel prices. In this article, we take a closer look at energy poverty and its impact on the inhabitants of Riga, the main causes and possible solutions to improve the quality of live for those, who have been affected by this issue.

What is energy poverty?

In short, energy poverty is a situation in which too much of the income is attributed to cover heating and electricity costs. Too much to be able to freely provide the indoor temperature necessary for healthy living. Too much to be able to pay your bills and buy a theatre ticket at the same time. Too much to live comfortably.

In order to find out how energy poverty affects the lives of the inhabitants of Riga, from June to September 2023, the Energy Agency of Riga conducted a survey in which 445 respondents participated.

Survey results

Although Riga is a relatively wealthy municipality, the survey clearly shows that people face energy availability issues here as well.

First of all, it should be noted that for a large proportion of respondents, energy efficiency and/or insulation upgrades to their buildings is neither the only nor perhaps even a priority action. At the same time, respondents – residents of apartment buildings – in their responses emphasize the poor technical condition of their buildings, which means high costs of maintenance and poor indoor air quality. Here, too, energy poverty plays a role – if a neighbour already has difficulty paying the heating bill, it will be difficult to persuade him to renovate the building, even if it would mean financial savings in the long term and immediate improvements in the overall aesthetics of the building and much more comfortable indoor environmental conditions.

Income relation to energy consumption of the surveyed population 
  • 8% of surveyed households say they are unable to keep their homes warm enough during the winter months. In households with income below 900 EUR, this share of the population exceeds 49%.
  • About 42% of households limit their electricity consumption, about 19% – heating (it should be mentioned here that the smallest percentage of heating consumption limit is often explained by the inability to regulate their heating consumption due to technical reasons), and about 38% – hot water consumption.
  • A third of the population limits their spending on food, while around 23% – transport costs.
  • About 4% of respondents report delays in utility payments.
Survey on the Energy Poverty in Riga

The data collection shows that among all  respondents around 9.2% could be considered as in a state of energy poverty, while the share of households with an income below EUR 900 per month reaches 14.7%.

There is also an association between reduced indoor temperature and health problems – residents whose dwellings were at 15-18 oC during the heating season indicated up to twice the proportion of health problems compared to those who indicated their apartment temperature in the 18-21oC range.

Temperature, however, is not the only thing that affects the feeling of comfort – although 78.4% of respondents mentioned that the temperature is provided above 18 oC, which, in principle, is within the preferable comfort range, 40% of respondents mention that indoor temperature is not high enough. Although this can be partly explained by the subjective nature of the comfort temperature (i.e. it is different for everyone), such a difference is also likely to arise from other factors – drafts from old wooden windows, high relative humidity of the indoor air, uninsulated basement covering, which lowers the floor temperature of the first floor, etc.

In addition, it should be mentioned that 22% of the population complains of condensation on the windows and walls during the winter months, which indicates insufficient ventilation. Condensation on the walls promotes mold growth and is one of the sick building syndrome indicators. All these factors can lead to serious health problems, if not addressed properly.

Energy poverty and building renovation 

The survey showed that buildings built after 2010 show lower energy consumption. This, of course, is due to their compliance with more recent building codes. Previously constructed buildings can also be upgrades to comply with the most recent building codes by renovating them.

The survey showed obstacles in the renovation of buildings – difficulties for citizens to agree on applying for a loan and co-financing programs due to the high bureaucratic burden and various myths about the renovation of buildings also play a small role. Interestingly, it was the financialburden that was indicated as a hindrance by a small number of respondents, indicating that residents understand the need to invest in their own housing.

Riga Energy Agency and project REVERTER offer assistance in the process of renovating the building, providing informational support, helping to prepare documentation and otherwise supporting those who wish. Apply for a free consultation and get acquainted with more on the website!