2. Energy efficient housing

//2. Energy efficient housing

2. Energy efficient housing

Recommendation: Apply ‘triple-win’ thinking to all energy efficiency measures

People spend 85-90% of their time indoors. Indoor temperature and air quality have a big effect on health and well-being. At the same time, households represent 25% of total energy consumption. People in lower-socio-economic groups are more likely to live in bad quality housing that uses energy inefficiently. They are therefore more likely to spend a higher percentage of their income on energy, but nevertheless suffer the consequences of badly heated, insulated and/or ventilated housing. Focus group reactions to the INHERIT scenarios reflect that many people like the idea of locally produced, green energy. Some like the idea of smart homes and of using technology as a way to save energy and money, but others struggle with the privacy implications.[1]

Voices from INHERIT

[…] I don’t agree completely that the government should be the only one to invest. We should all try to make an effort: start with saving somehow and maintain the nature, energy and all.

Republic, 51, Low Income

[…] I think makes sense if energy is produced where it is used and where it can be consumed, which may not always be possible, but in principle I find the idea already charming.

Germany, 46, Middle Income

[…] If we speak realistically we have [government] subsidies today as well, but how much of them have been used I do not have information. I have heard that not too many people can get the solar panels. If they make, everybody to get some subsidy it will be good.

Macedonia, 26, Middle Income

Where I would really go into resistance would be if the devices were all networked together. Then I think … will register everything and my private smart home is networked with other smart homes and that will be statistically evaluated in any data centres. My privacy would go with it, too.

Germany, 30, Low Income

[…] it worries me not so much that the home has the control but that there would be people that couldn’t have access because of lacking resources, as it would be big companies who provide without government’s cooperation.

Spain, 19, Middle Income

What can be done? Insights from INHERIT

National and sub-national   EU level
  • The interaction between health, fuel poverty, and energy efficiency is complex, since delivering a healthy indoor environment requires achieving a balance between insulation, ventilation and heating/cooling. Different sectors must work together to encourage and ensure energy efficiency measures that deliver triple-wins, and to counter the risk that energy efficiency measures exacerbate health inequalities. (Energy Efficiency Investments).
  • In practice, this means bringing together representatives from the energy, housing, public health and social service sectors in the design and delivery of energy efficiency programmes. Currently, few energy saving policies and programmes integrate health aspects, whilst public health programmes are unlikely to incorporate household energy efficiency measures.[2]
  • Deliver services at a scale and intensity proportionate to the degree of need.
  • Eurofound has calculated that if all severe inadequacies in housing stock (mould, dampness, cold, structural damage) across the EU could be reduced to an acceptable level, every €3 invested in reducing housing hazards would save €2 euros in medical costs within a year. A break-even on investments could be expected within 1.5 years on average over all EU countries.[3]
  • Encourage the use of ‘energy coaches’ or peer trainers to advise households on how they can use energy more efficiently whilst also informing about health considerations related to indoor temperature and air quality, as well as relevant subsidies. These services should be targeted to families according to need. Peer mediation is an effective approach. (Eco-inclusion)
  • Draw on insights from the field of behaviour change to encourage people to reduce energy consumption. Low income households may, for example, be more willing to change energy behaviour in response to pricing incentives. Energy bills that compare a household’s energy consumption with that of others in the area may also be effective in raising awareness. (See Recommendation 9 on behaviour change)
  • Subsidise technologies such as smart meters if there is sufficient evidence that it promotes energy efficiency and reduces household energy bills. Pair such measures with tight regulations and improved literacy on privacy laws and the use of personal data.

  • The INHERIT Policy Roadmap highlights local production grids as an important approach to achieving a ‘triple-win’ in the area of energy-efficient housing by 2030. Feedback from citizens on the INHERIT future scenarios also reflect support for this development, which could improve health by fostering community engagement.
  • Encourage the integration of health aspects in the assessment of energy saving and energy transition policy and programmes. Develop the range of EU energy programmes that support the switch to sustainable domestic energy consumption (Connecting Europe, Horizon Europe, etc.) and address evidence and concerns, also emerging from INHERIT, relating to digital connectivity. Ensure that green energy sources and appliances are accessible and affordable and that community and whole-home improvement programmes for insulation and ventilation are equitable. Ensure the prospective Just Transition Fund which aims to help the EU’s fossil-fuel dependent regions make a swift transition to clean energy, incorporates all aspects of the ‘triple-win’.
  • Act on the Eurofound evidence that improving housing quality is a cost-effective investment, by ensuring the European Semester’s cycle supports such investment through the Annual Growth Survey, the National Reform Plans and the Country Specific Recommendations and by providing technical guidance through the EU Structural Reform Support Service (SRSS); as well as linked support from InvestEU, Cohesion and Structural Funds.
  • Support green employment by training the trainers and home re-fitters through EU Social, employment and learning programmes (ESF+, Erasmus, Youth Guarantee or European Globalisation Adjustment Fund).


INHERIT triple-win case studies

More information on the INHERIT case studies can be found in the Annex: triple-win case studies

Retrospective analysis of Energy Efficiency Investments

Considered the costs and benefits of four energy efficiency measures (loft insulation, double glazing, draught-proofing and boiler replacement) targeting low-income households in the UK, with a focus on their link to health. Results highlight that although the impacts on the environment are likely to be unambiguously positive, due to energy and carbon savings, the picture for health is more mixed, potentially contributing to increased health inequalities.


Development of peer-to-peer training about household energy saving and waste disposal strategies among refugees in the city of Pforzheim, Germany. Evaluation results highlight the need for sensitivity to take into account educational and language barriers, and the necessity for innovative evaluation methods taking into account the specific characteristics of the target group (such as unstable residency status).

Tool: INHERIT Promising practice database


Over 100 promising practices from across Europe, including on energy efficiency

Additional Reading from INHERIT

Report: Baseline review

Staatsen, B., van der Vliet, N., Kruize, H., et al. (2017) INHERIT: Exploring triple-win solutions for living, moving and consuming that encourage behavioural change, protect the environment, promote health and health equity, Chapter 5

2019-12-19T16:34:16+01:00November 26, 2019|Keys areas|Comments Off on 2. Energy efficient housing