Energy efficiency improvement (EEI) actions can help to improve well-being, social cohesion and productivity.
Poor housing quality matched with ever-rising energy utility prices and stagnant or decreasing income result in a form of social deprivation called energy or fuel poverty. Indoor air pollution, dampness and indoor temperature are three parameters affecting the quality of housing and, as a result, also human health. Thermal comfort is the biggest driver of health-related co-benefits of energy efficiency improvement actions. By adopting energy efficiency-based welfare policies, governments could reduce energy poverty and various related negative manifestations, such as ill health.
Energy efficiency improvement actions implemented in commercial and industrial spaces can contribute to increasing worker productivity via increased thermal comfort, improved work conditions, and improved indoor air quality.
A modal shift in passenger transportation can lead to improved human health mainly due to an increase in physical activity. Replacement of short car trips by active modes of transport, walking and cycling, can provide for the necessary amount of daily physical activity ensuring physical and mental well-being. Accompanying public policies are needed to reduce the risks related to increased air pollution exposure and traffic accidents.
Energy poverty-related health impacts
According to the European Union’s Survey on Income and Living Conditions (EU SILC), 9.4% of European Union’s population were unable to keep their homes adequately warm and 15.2% lived in residential housing characterized by a leaking roof, damp walls, floors or foundation, and rot in window frames or floors in 2015. COMBI applied dedicated socio-economic models to estimate the energy poverty-related public health impacts of building refurbishments in 2030 – excess cold weather deaths due to indoor cold exposure and asthma due to indoor dampness exposure. Depending on scenarios of whether policies are targeted towards socially vulnerable or not at all, the results show that:
- 3 000–24 000 premature deaths can be avoided due to indoor cold
- 2 700–22 300 disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) of asthma morbidity can be avoided due to indoor dampness
- The associated economic value of avoided annual public health damage in 2030 ranges from 323 million EUR to 2.5 billion EUR due to premature mortality due to indoor cold; and from 338 million EUR to of 2.9 billion EUR due to asthma morbidity due to indoor dampness.