More European citizens are being pushed into energy poverty as the electricity and gas price crisis worsens, according to one energy poverty organisation.
Stefan Goemaere from Samenlevingsopbouw says he is seeing more people than ever unable to pay their energy bills.
“Normally we have contact with people who are already in a difficult situation, who have difficulty paying the bills. Even in my family and friends, there are people who ask me what is going on, how can we pay this (the bills), it’s not normal they say. These are people with average incomes who also have questions about what is happening now,” Goemaere told Euronews.
One of these people is Véronique Duquesne, a 60-year-old Belgian woman who has been living in energy poverty for several years.
She was already watching her consumption, but with the rise in gas and electricity prices, the situation is more alarming than ever.
Now she has to cut back on many of her everyday activities.
“When I make myself a cup of tea, I used to use the microwave and now I have an electric coffee maker and I just put in the amount of water so that it consumes less. So that’s it. And instead of taking a shower every day, I take one twice a week, the rest at the sink,” Duquesne told Euronews.
Véronique says she feels lost. She says she can’t do more.
Her shopping, for example, is calculated to the penny and according to the products on sale.
The former café owner benefits from a cheaper gas rate, but not for electricity.
At the moment she heats her flat for one hour a day, but if the winter is harsh she has to choose between being cold or accumulating debts, something she says is unbearable.
“I have this horrible feeling about what we’ve been through. All the people. The other people, the floods and all that, what are these people going to do? It’s inhumane! It’s inhumane to increase the electricity,” Duquesne said.
Because of the pandemic, the Belgian government has made it easier to obtain cheaper “social” tariffs.
But the scheme is due to end in December, which risks throwing thousands more people into energy poverty.