The cold days of January 2022 in Albania took the life of 67 old women in Fieri City. She was in difficult economic conditions, a degraded house and with no possibilities to even heat the room, due to power cut by the utility company. The director of OSHEE in Fier, stated that the lady was without electricity because she had not paid the service. The tragic consequences from the cold weather, because of extreme energy poverty conditions in Albania are reflected especially at the elderly, of which 318 thousand persons are over the age of 65 years. (Referring to INSTAT report Population aging – the situation of the elderly in Albania) and their average pension according to the Social Insurance Institute is 86 Euro per month (urban pension is 110 EUR per month and in rural area 76 EUR per month.
With this amount of pension, they must meet all vital needs for food, clothing, medicine, water, sanitation, and electricity.
According to the calculation made by an energy expert, for heating a room during the winter season with 9,000 BTU air conditioner it consumes 1kw per hour. Considering keeping it at least working for 10 hours, 30 days in month it is equal to 300 kw / month. The price of 1 KW is 9.5 lek (according to tariffs approved by decision no. 252, dated 21.12.2021) and for 300 kw of electricity consumed the amount is around 25 EUR per month. What about other living conditions of elderly, in the sense of material wellbeing, poverty and access to specific housing conditions (electricity used to heat water, for cooking, washing, and ironing, etc.) Only heating it costs to them 13-29% of the total amount of their pension. According to the EU standard, if energy consumption for heating exceeds 10% of a household income, then it is considered in energy poverty condition.
Albania is one of the few countries that is supplied with electricity by one operator, while countries such as Italy, Spain, Slovenia, Croatia have the choice between electricity operators and if customers are not satisfied with the service, or if a company offers more favorable conditions, can terminate the contract with the existing operator and connect it with another operator. Also, in cases when the household is not able to pay for electricity (proven records), the company cannot interrupt the power supply, but the unpaid bill is accumulated as debt until the payment will be made.
In Albania it is necessary that the government support diversification of the energy sector and help financially vulnerable groups to install PV panels, which would reduce the bill and meet a part of the electricity needs for the people in need, ensuring better health and comfort. Thermal insulation in all social buildings, will help a lot in saving electricity for heating and cooling of buildings. Immediate need is the liberalization of the energy market for family members, who can select the company with which they want to sign a service contract. Infrastructure investments cannot stay alone, if not adequate attention is given to increase the institutional capability for gender-sensitive and socially just energy policy framework. And finally, a detailed and in-depth study should be done in all urban and rural areas of the country aiming to assess gender mainstreaming and energy poverty gender patterns.
These facts, figures and arguments are an alarm addressed to the responsible institutions and the Prime Minister of Albania: pensioners need the help of the state, to afford the electricity bill during the winter and summer season. They deserve attention and care, should be treated with dignity, as they have never been appreciated for their valuable contribution! The pensioners do not deserve the miserable fate of the women from Fier.