By Zografia Andreosatou
This article and the report were written within the framework of the Erasmus+ fellowship of the University of Patras, conducted at the Institute for European Energy and Climate Policy. The report was written in the context of the EU Life project JUSTEM – Just Transition and Empowerment against Energy Poverty.
Energy poverty has become an increasingly urgent problem in Europe in recent years, affecting both genders, as gender and energy are interlinked. Energy poverty at EU level is defined in the 2023 Regulation on the Social Climate Fund and revised Energy Efficiency Directive ((EU) 2023/1791) as a household’s lack of access to basic energy services that provide basic levels and decent standards of living and health. Measures and policies both at the European level and for specific regions of Europe have been taken to mitigate the effects of energy poverty. Greece is one of the European countries most affected by this phenomenon, with 19.7% of Greeks not understanding the term energy poverty (Heinrich-boll Stiftung). The main coal regions in Greece, Western Macedonia and Megalopolis in Arcadia, are expected to be particularly vulnerable to the consequences of energy poverty. In the framework of my Erasmus+ internship at IEECP in the JUSTEM project, I was more concretely interested in how energy poverty and gender are interlinked, especially in Greece. To determine the relationship between energy poverty and gender, I had to find out what indicators can be used to analyse the gender-specific impacts of energy poverty and what are the specific challenges of energy poverty and gender issues in the coal regions of Greece. To answer these questions, I carried out a literature review, data analysis, and a policy analysis.
Literature review – What are the indicators for measuring energy poverty and gender?
Based on the literature analysed on energy poverty and gender in Europe and Greece, the main indicators that were considered were usually the employment index, energy expenditure and income, education, health services and disabilities, objective and subjective indicators. Objective indicators relate to the percentage of household income that must be spent on fuel to maintain thermal comfort at home, while subjective indicator relate to the households’ assessments of the level of energy services available at home. The indicator of “unemployment by gender” was mainly examined. Based on the current literature, I have selected 9 indicators to analyse energy poverty and gender in Greece. These are indicators related to the dimensions and level of energy poverty and vulnerability indicators. The table below summarises the selected indicators for measuring energy poverty and gender for the study areas, and for which of them gender-specific data were found.
Table 1: Indicators to measure energy poverty and energy poverty on gender in Greece and in the two selected coal regions. Legend: in brown: no data for gender; in blue: available data for gender.
Quantitative analysis of the energy poverty – gender nexus in Greece
I carried out a quantitative analysis, using the above indicators to measure energy poverty and gender for the regions of Western Macedonia and Arcadia. From the analysis of the indicators, I found that women in Greece, and especially in the two coal regions of analysis, are more vulnerable and more prone to energy poverty, as the rates of the all the indicators measured for both genders were higher for women than for men. The main results of the quantitative analysis are: the unemployment rate of women in the two regions of Western Macedonia and the Peloponnese is higher than that of men, with the highest rates female unemployment in Western Macedonia (24.4%) and in the Peloponnese (17.7%), in contrast to men, whose rates are much lower. It can therefore observed that female unemployment is much higher, not only in relation to men in the region, but also in relation to the average female unemployment rate in Greece (16.3%) in 2022.
Figure 1: Unemployment rate (%) by gender, Greece, August 2018 – 2023 (Hellenic Statistical Authority).
Figure 2: Unemployment rate by gender in Western Macedonia and Peloponnese (Eurostat).
The risk of poverty and exclusion for women in Greece in 2022 (27.4%) is higher than for men (25.2%). This index therefore also shows that the proportion of women is higher than that of men, which is to be expected given that the unemployment rate for women is also higher than that for men. Western Macedonia and the Peloponnese are among the regions with the highest poverty risk rates in Greece, with 25.4% for Western Macedonia and 23.4% for the Peloponnese respectively, rates that have not changed between 2018 and 2022.
Figure 3: Rate (%) of the risk of poverty or social exclusion in Greece in 2022 (Hellenic Statistical Authority).
Figure 4: Rate (%) of population at risk of poverty or social exclusion in Western Macedonia and Peloponnese (Hellenic Statistical Authority).
Regarding severe material and social deprivation, Greece records one of the highest percentages of 13.9%, with women being more affected. Peloponnese with a percentage of 22.4 in 2022 exceeds the average of Greece by about 10% more (13.9%), in contrast to Western Macedonia with 10.2%, where it ranges at the average prices of the country.
Figure 5: Material and social deprivation rate (%) by gender in Greece 2021 and 2022 (Hellenic Statistical Authority).
Figure 6: Material and social deprivation rate (%) in Western Macedonia and Peloponnese (Eurostat).
Αnalysis of policies to alleviate energy poverty and gender inequality in Greece
Last, I analysed recent policy documents, namely the National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP), the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, the Action Plan for Combating Energy Poverty, the Energy community law 4513, the Just Development Transition Programme, the Territorial Just Transition Plans of Western Macedonia and Megalopolis, in relation to the reduction of energy poverty, and I checked for specific reference to gender. The measures that have been taken are mainly economic and regulatory, both in general for Greece and in support of regions depended on the mining and burning lignite for electricity generation, such as Megalopolis and Western Macedonia. Most of the measures focus on strengthening the development dimension – financing measures to improve the energy efficiency of buildings and promote greater penetration of renewable energy in the country, the energy transition, and raising awareness among citizens. Most policies and measures give little or no weight to gender.
Of the analysed policy documents analysed, the National Recovery and Resilience Plan places the greatest emphasis on gender through a series of proposals aimed at promoting gender equality and ensuring equal opportunities for all.
My research shows that women are more vulnerable than men, making them more prone to energy poverty. Greece’s policies to reduce this phenomenon focus more on economic and regulatory measures and less on social measures, such as empowering women. There is a need to put more emphasis on both vulnerable social groups and more specifically on the most vulnerable gender. For future research on measuring energy poverty, it is essential to pay attention to the gender aspect, taking into account measurement indicators, such as economic, social, demographic, and energy, as it has been proven that both genders are affected by energy poverty, but experience it in different ways.
Through my internship with the JUSTEM team, analysing energy poverty and gender, and researching the corresponding policies in Greece, I have gained a deeper insight into energy issues, put theoretical knowledge into practice, and also gained great experience as a postgraduate student in the field of energy policy.