Project Reports

Final project report to the Austrian Climate and Energy Fund

Policy Briefs and Factsheets

Wie kann der Gebäudesektor sozial-fair dekarbonisiert werden? BALANCE Policy Brief.

Energiearmut und Wohnsituation von Haushalten mit geringem Einkommen in Graz. Ausgewählte Ergebnisse der Haushaltsbefragung Juli/August 2020. BALANCE Factsheet.

Journal Articles

Seebauer, S., Friesenecker, M., Eisfeld, K. (2019). Integrating climate and social housing policy to alleviate energy poverty: An analysis of targets and instruments in Austria. Energy Sources, Part B: Economics, Planning, and Policy, 14(7-9), 304-326. doi:10.1080/15567249.2019.1693665 (formerly Working Paper BALANCE-WP-1)

Housing conditions are addressed by climate policy in retrofitting buildings and by social policy in providing affordable and adequate housing. Aim This paper illustrates intersections between both policy spheres in Austria and argues that disjunct policies undermine efforts at alleviating energy poverty. We identify conditions under which housing in Austria may lead to reduction in carbon emissions and inequality. Methods A concurrent triangulation design combines secondary data analysis, semi-structured expert interviews, and an in-depth analysis of legal documents. Results Energy poor and generally poor similarly live in low-quality and inefficient housing. Climate and social policy suffer from fragmented jurisdictions lacking inter-sectoral integration and do not accurately target the energy poor. Structural investments and the provision of affordable, adequate housing conflict due to the tenant/landlord dilemma. Implications Socio-economic conditions and housing market structures need to be incorporated in policy design. Inter-ministerial collaboration may mainstream the integration of climate and social policy.

Eisner, A., Kulmer, V., Kortschak, D. (2021). Distributional eff ects of carbon pricing when considering household heterogeneity: An EASI application for Austria. Energy Policy, 156, 112478. doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2021.112478. (formerly Working Paper BALANCE-WP-2).

This paper studies the distributional impacts of a carbon tax in Austria and explores compensating measures to mitigate negative side effects. We extend previous studies by focussing on household heterogeneity, i.e. how housing attributes and socio-demographics govern a household’s vulnerability to energy price increases. We apply the EASI demand system, which captures non-linear Engel curves and heterogeneous preferences; both crucial to estimate energy consumption. By simulating stylised, separate price increases we identify how seemingly overall similar welfare effects differ, depending on the energy good taxed, the region a household lives in, year of construction and household composition. These impact channels, with the severity of impacts differing according to various household characteristics are also reflected by the carbon tax scenario and reveal the importance of targeted support schemes. Although, each of the tested transfer schemes is able to enhance equality and cushion negative welfare effects, transfer schemes focussing on household size or on particular vulnerable population segments show the strongest effects in terms of equality, proportionality of the tax burden and welfare. Consequently, in order to yield a socially fair energy or carbon tax regime, taking household heterogeneity into account is essential.

Seebauer, S. (2021). How to make building renovation work for low-income renters: Preferences for distributional principles and procedural options in Austria. Energy Research & Social Science, 82, 102270. doi:10.1016/j.erss.2021.102270. (formerly Working Paper BALANCE WP-4).

Widespread thermal refurbishment of existing buildings is essential for mitigating carbon emissions and energy poverty. Retrofitting for better energy efficiency in low-income rental housing comes up against the tenant-landlord dilemma, however; for renovation to be accepted by residents, rules for cost sharing and fair implementation are required. The present study employs structural equation modelling to analyse distributional and procedural preferences in a survey sample of 942 social welfare recipients in Austria. The distributional principles of polluter-pays and energy bill neutrality are preferred for allocating renovation costs. Equal-pay, ability-to-pay, and paying extra instalments to finance the renovation are only accepted for buildings in high need of renovation. Low-income renters welcome a wide range of procedural options, in particular, providing transparent and comprehensive information on the planned renovation and mitigating inconvenience during the construction phase. Psychological and relational capabilities play into these preferences: households holding pro-environmental attitudes favour polluter-pays to prevent free-riders. A frugal mindset, trust in the landlord and renter concerns make low-income renters endorse ability-to-pay to avoid being displaced to lower-grade dwellings on a discriminating housing market. The results suggest that distributional principles need not stand alone but could be combined. For instance, allocating the majority of renovation costs by polluter-pays, but a smaller share by ability-to-pay, may cushion disproportionate impacts on less affluent residents. Energy counselling could empower low-income renters to manage personal energy and renovation costs, and to build literacy about renovation benefits and legal claims to encourage their landlord to renovate.

Eisfeld, K., Seebauer, S. (2022). The energy austerity pitfall: Linking hidden energy poverty with self-restriction in household use in Austria. Energy Research & Social Science, 84, 102427. doi:10.1016/j.erss.2021.102427. (formerly Working Paper BALANCE WP-3).

This paper investigates whether energy poor households may be overlooked because they self-restrict their residential heating to underconsumption. Energy poverty definitions predominantly focus on energy expenses relative to household income or theoretically estimated energy needs. Deprived households may accept colder room temperatures to avoid excessive energy bills, but this austerity reaction may backfire if they are no longer classified as energy poor. We thus propose a complementary perspective, highlighting hidden energy poverty emerging from residents’ reactions to their impaired situation. Drawing on survey data of predominantly low-income residents in energy inefficient housing in the cities of Vienna (N = 220) and Graz (N = 433), Austria, latent class analysis identifies two distinct classes of self-restricting and non-restricting households. Cross-tabulating these classes with current poverty definitions indicates a blind spot: about a third of those not considered income poor or energy poor cope by self-imposed restriction in energy use. This blind spot applies across a range of common income poverty and energy poverty definitions, and is replicated in both the Vienna and Graz samples reflecting different housing contexts. Self-restriction blurs the lines of current classifications, as some deprived households may not be recognized in poverty statistics or eligibility criteria of welfare and housing policies. Thus, we propose to consider self-restriction in energy use complementary to the energy poverty triad of high energy expenditures, low income and poor housing conditions in order to avoid misidentification.

Working Papers

Schmitz, H., Madlener, R. (2021). Preferences for retrofit investments among low income renters. Working Paper BALANCE WP-5.

We analyze the preferences of low-income renters for different retrofitting options, using a discrete choice. Using data collected from a Discrete Choice Experiment, we elicit renters‘ preferences for different retrofitting options, based on four attributes. We find that households are willing to foregone significant future savings in order to avoid investment costs in the present.