COLD@HOME

Deck: 

COLD@HOME is an initiative of The Energy Action Project (EnAct), an ongoing investigation of all types of energy poverty.

COLD@HOME is an initiative of The Energy Action Project (EnAct), an ongoing investigation of all types of energy poverty.

Fortnightly Magazine - May 2017
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“There’s nothing left to live on,” says Katerina Nykonyvna as she leaves the town hall in Bobritsya, Ukraine, where she handed over $68 of her $75 pension to pay her monthly gas and electricity bills.

On the way home, Katerina crosses herself in front of the Orthodox church and explains that she no longer goes in, even on Sunday mornings. “I can’t afford a candle to say prayer.”

Increasingly, governments in Europe and North America recognize that a growing number of families face difficult decisions every day once winter sets in, such as whether to heat or eat. Most consider that anyone spending more than ten percent of available income on household energy lives in a state of fuel poverty or energy poverty.

Katerina’s dacha, like millions of homes across rural Ukraine, has a single gas point for heating. Photo: M. Smith/Ukraine

Cold at Home, a short documentary film, depicts how Katerina, her son Stephan and her granddaughter Maria cope with having been picked up by the perfect storm and dropped into an extreme situation. The ongoing war in Donetsk cost Stephan his job and forced them to live year-round in Katerina’s summer dacha near Kiev.

Meanwhile, to secure a desperately needed loan from the International Monetary Fund, the Ukraine government agreed to cut longstanding gas subsidies.

On 1 April 2015, gas prices went up 280%.

EES North America

With Katerina paying the bills and Stephan depleting his savings to fix the dacha, it falls to Maria to put food on the table. All of them are cold, all the time.

Being chronically cold is linked to serious health impacts, such as malnutrition and under-development in infants and children; repeated incidence of cold and flu; depression in adolescents and adults; and increased risk of potentially fatal respiratory and heart conditions in the elderly. In England alone, associated costs to the National Health Service are estimated at about $1 billion annually.

Cases of fuel poverty across Europe are rising, ranging from around eight percent of households in England and Ireland to highs of forty-seven percent in Greece and fifty-three percent in Bulgaria. In total, an estimated 100 million households in industrialized countries are at risk. While low income plays a role, more often the combination of poor quality housing and high energy costs brings families to the tipping point.

The film, which recently won first prize in the Danish Photo of the Year Awards, is one element of an extensive multimedia package by the same name ( www.coldathome.today). Jointly developed by journalists and energy experts, the website uses blogs, feature articles and interactive content to investigate why fuel poverty persists, its impacts on individuals and national economies, and who is working to address it.

A new policy launched by the Government of Ireland is particularly innovative: it gives physicians authority to prescribe housing upgrades for patients who are chronically sick from chronic cold. The pilot phase is expected to demonstrate that savings to the health system exceed the cost of retrofits. If that

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