High Efficiency Household Appliances and Low Income Families in Italy
With increasing globalisation of the economy, income distribution and consumer preferences are changing. This may impact upon the possibility for lowincome families to purchase and utilise energy efficient home appliances.
The aim of the study is to access the present degree of difficulty that low income families in Italy have in purchasing high efficiency refrigerator/freezers and clothes washers.
Results show that, given their substantially lower level of expenditure for household appliances, the higher prices of energy efficient models represent an obstacle for these families in Italy to overcome energy inefficiency and energy poverty, an important input to energy policy. Over two million 600 thousand families, 11.9 percent of the total families in 1999 are estimated to be below the poverty threshold based upon consumption. An independent survey shows that these families possess less technologically advanced models, keeping them for a much longer period of 36 years, more than double the recommended lifetime of 15 years, and four times the national average of nine years. This technical disadvantage is aggravated by the additional operating costs of the more inefficient models. The higher prices of the more efficient models make it difficult for the poor families to afford them. Even at the annualised price of the average refrigerator — belonging to the energy efficiency C class — the annual expenditure of the poor families in Italy is less than half that necessary to purchase this model, consistent with the longer turnover rates. According to latest statistics in 1999, the B model is priced 70% above the C model in Italy, making it very difficult for poor families to purchase the more efficient models. Extrapolating the relative consumption data to other European countries and comparing it to local prices indicates that the situation may be similar in other EU Member States.
The implications for energy and social policy are clear: without some form of public incentive it is unlikely that poor families in Italy will purchase the energy efficient models, remaining in an energy poverty trap for many years to come.
KeywordsPoor Family Annual Expenditure Poverty Threshold Household Appliance European Community Household Panel
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