From: Alice Taylor
High Energy Poverty Rates Drive Increase in Pollution-Related Deaths

At least 37% of Albanians are suffering from energy poverty, far above the European average of 5%, according to a study from DOOR and EIHP to address energy poverty in energy community contracting parties. This drives them to use wood to heat their homes, directly impacting the health of all.

Amongst the nine contracting parties, Kosovo has the largest share of households living in energy poverty at 40%. This is followed by Albania with 37%, 33% in North Macedonia, 22% in Serbia and 15% in Montenegro. The study defines energy poverty as not being able to adequately heat houses or meets day-to-day energy needs.

It also noted that energy-poor customers are those that do not get support in meeting their energy needs.

A separate study found that almost half of all Western Balkan households rely on wood for heating, with significant impacts on health. The European Environmental Agency estimated that air pollution caused more than 30.000 premature deaths in 2019 in the six countries of the Western Balkans.

“No matter what we burn, we create pollution – that also goes for burning wood. It is quite simple: burning wood pollutes the air we breathe, both indoor and outdoor. It makes people sick, aggravates chronic diseases and even leads to numerous unnecessary early deaths. From a health perspective, the Western Balkans urgently need to transition to energy-efficient, non-polluting and healthy household heating”, the alliance’s Senior Health and Energy Officer Vlatka Matković said.

He added that the Western Balkans “urgently needs to transition to energy-efficient, non-polluting, and healthy household heating.

Many households in the region use woodburning stoves as a backup, in the case economic hardship pushes them into energy poverty. This means that the high rates of vulnerable homes in Albania and the region directly contribute to poor health outcomes for entire societies.

“Investing money in replacing stoves is likely not to deliver on pollution reduction or anticipated health and climate co-benefits. Instead, we need to put money into energy savings and insulating people’s houses, to both improve people’s health and elevate energy poverty, reducing energy bills,” Vlatka Matković asserted.