More and more Serbian citizens are having trouble with access to electricity. The main reasons being price and the lack of social policies in the sector. A great number of people are face to face with energy poverty.
Energy poverty is a crucial aspect of poverty, and it’s connected with limited access to modern energy services. It’s usually a consequence of various energy policies, high prices of energy supply services, low and unstable incomes, health conditions, and the household’s specific needs and size. The weak infrastructure and the energy efficiency of the buildings are also a factor.
Electrical energy is the main source of energy in most households, and for that reason, it best shows the consequences of energy deprivation. Electricity supply affects not only basic needs such as heating, food, and hygiene but also limits access to communications and the Internet. Therefore, the electricity supply is one of the most important factors that produce social and other inequalities. Besides, energy poverty exposes residents to respiratory and heart diseases, including an impact on mental health due to stress, low temperatures, and inability to pay bills.
According to EPS (Elektroprivreda Srbija) data, about 40% of households are late in paying the electricity. The largest segment of that 40% is people with low incomes, those to whom employers remain indebted for wages, those who choose to pay health bills instead of electricity. Of the 60% of those who get a five percent discount due to timely payment, it is certain that there are those who pay the bills at the expense of buying food. It is worth noting that there is an 11% interest rate on those bills. According to portal 021, only in January of 2017, 141 households were disconnected from the electricity network.
As for the social policy that should work on combating energy poverty, it exists but is insufficient. The right to free energy is realized but is a negligible percentage in relation to the needs. According to some estimates, only 78,000 citizens used that right in 2018, while in 2019, about 100,000 citizens acquired the right. The state has passed a new regulation in order to please everyone who has the right to free energy. According to it, the right to free energy sources should be automatically exercised by the users of social assistance and child allowance. However, in many cities, even a third of those on the list of social assistance beneficiaries did not receive free kilowatts.
Although a public company provides electricity in Serbia, the interests represented by this company are not public. This is shown by the situation that EPS does not pressure the largest debtors but the poorest ones. This points to the fact that it is necessary to work on re articulating electricity as a common good. Electricity is a resource that enables our daily survival and personal development, so for that reason, we should fight to make it available to anyone.