A family is in a state of energy poverty when they have difficulties accessing high quality energy sources with which to meet their basic and fundamental needs. The low energy access, as well as the use of polluting fuels or the excessive waste of time associated with fuel collection, reduce the well-being of family members and hinder the human and economic development.
Energy poverty has three dimensions: access, quality and equity. Access refers to the physical and technological barriers that limit access to food, hygiene, lighting and air conditioning services in the household. Quality considers adequacy, safety, reliability and innocuousness (in terms of domestic contamination) of the energy sources used by households. Finally, Equity refers to economic barriers to access energy sources, or excessive expenditure of the household in this item.
According to the data from CASEN survey (2017), more than 50,000 people throughout Chile are in a situation of energy poverty due to lack of access to electricity in their houses. Furthermore, the main source of energy consumed by Chilean households is firewood (Figure 1), a fuel that, if not properly managed, leads to problems of intra and extra-household pollution. This is a very important issue to address, especially if we consider that heating also represents an important percentage of the family budget. In 2017, the average monthly expenditure on heating was $46.290; just over the 15% of the minimum wage for that year (EPF, 2017).
The data highlights the importance of quantifying and understanding the phenomenon of energy poverty, due to its impact on families at the health, social and economic level. This phenomenon has not been widely addressed in our country, which is reflected in the lack of sources and data to quantify energy poverty at the national level and with the particularities of each territory.
The objective of this line of research is to characterize and understand the phenomenon of energy poverty in the south-central region of Chile. There is evidence to argue that energy poverty levels increase considerably in this area of the country (Reyes et al., 2019). Having more and better sources of information and analysis is essential for the development of public policies with territorial relevance that are effective.
CDT. 2019. Informe final de usos de la energía de los hogares de Chile 2018.
Encuesta CASEN. Ministerio de Desarrollo Social y Familia. 2017. Disponible en: http://www.desarrollosocialyfamilia.gob.cl/informacion-social/encuesta-casen-2017
Encuesta de Presupuestos Familiares 2016-2017. 2017. INE. Disponible en: https://www.ine.cl/estadisticas/sociales/ingresos-y-gastos/encuesta-de-presupuestos-familiares
Ortega, V.; Reyes, R.; Schueftan, A.; González, A. y Rojas, F. 2016. Contaminación atmosférica: Atacando el síntoma, no la enfermedad. Análisis de los sistemas de calefacción residencial y los programas de descontaminación atmosférica en la Región de Los Ríos. En: Boletín BES, Bosques – Energía – Sociedad, Año 2. N° 3. Febrero 2016. Observatorio de los Combustibles Derivados de la Madera OCDM. Instituto Forestal, Chile. p. 24