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Regional energy consumption and income differences in Denmark

Klinge Jacobsen, Henrik (2002): Regional energy consumption and income differences in Denmark. Published in: Environmental Policy and Planning , Vol. Vol. 5, No. 3 : pp. 269-283.

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Internationally a debate on the distributional impact of energy taxation has focused on the tax burden relative to income. The general conclusion is that taxes are regressive, but at a varying degree for different countries. This paper deals with energy consumption and tax impacts in a regional comparison in addition to the income perspective. Energy consumption varies a great deal depending on the area of location of households. This study examines the relationship between location, income, heating technology characteristics, and the energy tax that the households pay. The paper aims at identifying general implications of energy taxes with respect to different impacts on population groups depending on location and income. Tax payments associated with energy use are considered relative to total disposable income of households grouped in income deciles and by other characteristics. The importance of energy consumption and tax payments depends on the income levels in rural areas compared to income in urban areas. In Denmark, the income difference is quite small, but energy consumption, and therefore also the burden of energy taxation, is higher in rural areas. Furthermore the low-income households in rural areas consume much more energy than low-income households in urban areas. Low-income households in rural areas are therefore a group that is specifically exposed to increased energy taxation. The households living in rural areas have the disadvantage of not having access to the public heating grids and the natural gas grids. Therefore they have to rely on individual solutions, which to a large extent are gas oil, electricity, and biomass. Apart from higher energy costs, the rural households also pay considerably higher taxes on transport by private cars. This is caused by the less developed public transport in rural areas and therefore higher car frequency in combination with the more sparse population. This paper documents that the rural population has higher energy bills also compared to income, but there is not income inequality between rural and urban areas in Denmark. In countries with higher inequality in income distribution and a higher proportion of low-income households in rural areas, the impact of energy and transport taxes might be more uneven. For countries with a high proportion of low-income households living in urban areas and little income inequality this issue might, as in the Danish case, not be a problem for the design of energy and environmental taxes

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