Measures to tackle the Covid-19 outbreak impact on energy poverty: Preliminary analysis based on the Italian and Spanish experiences
The Covid-19 outbreak that spread worldwide at the beginning of 2020 exacerbated energy poverty issues. Several countries tried to contain the epidemic through confinement measures that require people to stay home. This measure had a two-fold effect: i) the energy needs of residential consumers grew, due to both augmented conventional demand (space heating, hot water, cooking and dishwashing) and new energy demand (as the one related with teleworking); ii) the confinement, or the associated measures, provoked a strong contraction in the job market, with many people losing their employment, either temporarily or permanently. This combination of factors obviously aggravated the usual problems related with energy poverty, by increasing the difficulty in paying energy bills and by enlarging the discomfort of living in households that experience inadequate levels of essential energy services. Several governments introduced specific measures in the emergency acts issued during the epidemic to tackle this Covid 19-induced energy poverty. The most widespread intervention was the postponement of any supply disconnection in case of non-payment. This article focuses on the measures implemented in Italy and Spain, the two initial epicentres of the epidemic in Europe; it highlights the key challenges that arise and outlines innovative alternatives to face them, beyond disconnection bans.