While Athens has not experienced the winter storms that are currently battering Northern Europe, temperatures in the city frequently drop to the low single digits. Yet according to data released the by Natural Gas Supply Company, 44% of the apartment buildings in Athens with heating oil boilers have not been heated at all this winter.

Last year the proportion was 33%.

Most apartment buildings in Athens have central boilers fueled by heating oil. However due to the increase in taxation together with the effects of the economic crisis on wages and unemployment (which is at 28% according to the most recent data) more and more buildings are unable to afford the cost of heating oil.

The fact that the boilers are communal compounds exacerbates the problem as all the residents must agree to share the cost. Residents still able to pay their share of the heating oil bill may still be left in the cold if their neighbours cannot.

This problem is part of the reason that natural gas is currently making inroads with residents who can afford installing their own autonomous heating systems. The Natural Gas Supply Company has also announce a programme to subsidise the cost of installing  natural gas by 50% for heating cooking and hot water.

Furthermore the Environment Ministry is preparing a change to the legal framework in order for it to become easier for residents in buildings with communal heating to install autonomous systems.

For many however this is not an option, and as a result the use of polluting and dangerous forms of heating – such  as open wood fires – have increased dramatically.