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Energy Poverty in Seoul

In Chang HwangㆍEun-Cheol ParkㆍJong-Rak Baek

Energy poverty has been high on the political agenda in Seoul since the late 2000s. The Seoul Metropolitan Government has addressed energy poverty via various policy measures including energy voucher schemes, energy price schemes, and building retrofit projects. We surveyed the energy-related characteristics of 602 low-income households in Seoul, including household income, energy expenditure, housing characteristics, type of heating, cooling, cooking system, home appliances, vulnerable family members, inability to maintain adequate levels of heating or cooling, health impacts, and government supports. The status of energy poverty and the effects of government support for alleviating energy poverty are investigated.  

One of the main findings is that 12.5% of low-income households in Seoul is suffering from energy poverty based on the 2M indicator (twice the median share of energy expenditure in income). Considering  the high cost of living in Seoul, the proportion of low-income households suffering from energy poverty increases to 29.2%. The share of low-income households whose absolute energy expenditure is less than 50% of the national median (i.e., hidden energy poverty) is 32.9%. Two in every 5 low-income households (39.5%) are unable to maintain adequate level heating in winter or cooling in summer, and one in every 3 low-income households (33.9%) undergoes medical treatments (health impacts) due to energy poverty.   

Government support is useful to alleviate energy poverty. We find that the share of low-income households suffering from energy poverty decreases by 20~33% point, depending on the indicators for energy poverty measurement, due to policy measures. In order to reduce the probability of energy poverty experienced by low-income households in half, additional support to the tune of 3~4,000 Korean Won per month per household is required.