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COVID-19 pandemic 'risks undermining progress on energy poverty'

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By Euronews
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COVID-19 pandemic 'risks undermining progress on energy poverty'
Copyright  KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP
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Latest figures show more than 30 million Europeans are unable to adequately heat their homes, according to the Jacques Delors Energy Centre.

Now, amid the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic risks undermining progress made to combat energy poverty over recent years, due to people losing their jobs and the need to heat houses throughout the continent's lockdowns.

"In fact, the COVID-19 crisis has had two main impacts," Thomas Pellerin-Carlin, the director of the centre, told Euronews.

"The first one is a drop in income. All these people who are on short-time work and who have lost their jobs. And the other is that all the health measures, like curfews, confinement, teleworking, also mean that people are spending much more time at home. And as a result, there is a need to heat homes more and we end up with European families who before the crisis were not very rich, but who survived well and managed to heat their homes well and who now are unable to heat their homes, which also encourages respiratory diseases."

Euronews spoke with Véronique Duquesne, a former hairdresser and cafe owner from Belgium, who said she is living in energy poverty and really struggles to cope.

"I'm saving the heating today. I put it on because it's still -10 degrees. Otherwise, I usually don't put it on before 4 or 5 in the afternoon. And when I go to sleep, I turn it off for the whole night and so on every day like that because it's so expensive," Duquesne explained.

"Sometimes I am eating only pasta or eggs for a while because I can't afford to eat anything else. At the beginning of the month, I go and get a steak because I want a good steak, otherwise, I can't afford it. But when you can afford it...it feels good."

The uncertainty also affects her family life as she can no longer see her six grandchildren during the winter.

"When the little ones came, they bathed in pairs so we could save money. I'm careful with the water too. I will take a shower one day, but the next, I wash myself using the sink to avoid using too much water."

In the short-term, the Jacques Delor Energy Centre is suggesting that authorities could provide emergency aid to people, in order to give them immediate relief, but the long-term solution is to renovate buildings, making them more energy-efficient.