In a previous post, I derided the skanky flip flops that Bulgarians like to give you when you enter their homes. But to be fair, some form of footwear is normally necessary, because it’s cold in Bulgaria. And fuel bills are really expensive – which means that:
- The average Bulgarian household spends a massive 14% of their income on energy and water bills.
- Every year, between a third and two thirds of Bulgarian households are unable to keep their homes adequately warm.
High fuel bills are partly down to the fact that Bulgaria is hugely dependent on other countries for its energy sources. But they’re also expensive because housing in Bulgaria is not very energy efficient. According to national statistical data for 2001, 97% of housing in Bulgaria was built before 1990; energy efficiency regulations weren’t even introduced in Bulgaria until 1992. And I’ve not even mentioned inefficient heating systems – a lack of investment has led to a situation where district heating systems (used by 60% of households in Sofia) have low production efficiency and high grid losses.
So improving the energy efficiency of the residential sector should be a key area of concern for the government. But there are massive challenges involved, like the high proportion of flats in multiple ownership buildings (where agreement between all owners is required for work to go ahead) and inability of many householders to meet the upfront costs of energy efficiency works (the median income in Bulgaria is around 20% of the average income in the European Union).
Energy use in the residential sector is set to increase further, due to the fact that standards of living in Bulgaria are improving. Average household sizes are getting smaller, while house sizes are increasing. Ownership of electrical appliances is also increasing rapidly – in 10 years between 2001 and 2011, the proportion of households that owned home computers increased from 4.1% to 42.9%.
Even more astonishingly, Bulgaria’s homes are third behind only Cyprus and Malta in the EU for the amount of electricity used per home for air conditioning, and consumption of air conditioning per dwelling increased by 45% per year between 2000 and 2008 – the fastest increase in Europe.
Turns out that the use of air conditioning should be a pretty hot topic for Bulgaria…