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ASSIST - Support Network for Household Energy Saving

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - ASSIST (ASSIST - Support Network for Household Energy Saving)

Reporting period: 2018-11-01 to 2020-06-30

ASSIST was a 38-month European market activation and policy orientation project to contribute to tackle energy poverty and support vulnerable consumers adopting an holistic and multidisciplinary approach, addressing both the energy and social aspects of energy poverty.
More specifically, the underpinning concept of ASSIST were that on one side only a local and on the ground solution can concretely reach and provide support to consumers in energy poor / vulnerable conditions and on the other hand operators working on the gorund may not have the competencies and skills to provide high quality advice on all energy poverty related issues. Based on these two assumptions ASSIST aimed to define and test a model to actively address energy poor / vulnerable consumers by providing them advice through trained and empowered operators on the ground (HEAs - Household Energy Advisors) in order to enable consumers to be active on the energy market and positively change behaviour in relation to energy consumption. The project included also activities aimed to disseminate the model to support the take-up of the model within local strategies to tackle energy poverty and influence energy poverty policy.
After three years of work, ASSIST built a model to support consumers in need and proved it can be successfully taken up by different public and private actors working in various sectors – from energy to social, from banking to health, from non-profit associations to private companies. The ASSIST model is based on the figure of Household Energy Advisor (HEA) and a 3-step process: training – networking – action. The HEA is a professional already working on the ground, able to provide support to people, not exclusively in the energy sector. They have the necessary competencies and knowledge on the matter to provide first-hand answers to all energy poverty-related questions and needs: from non-paid bills to contract changes, from requests for financial help to the use of efficient appliances. More than 100 on the ground operators from each participating country) were trained on energy poverty issues and assisted more than 10.000 consumers per country through soft informative actions and approximately 750 consumers through direct and concrete support actions. ASSIST created the training and working resources for the HEAs, the working environment for the national networks of HEAs and useful resources to be used by HEAs to address consumers.
The impact of the HEAs support activities was monitored during the project and two indicators were specifically built: Energy Saving Indicator (ESI) which includes energy saving but also comfort increased and money saving and the Vulnerability Empowerment Factor (VEF) as a subjective indicator to monitor the decrease of vulnerability of consumers thanks to an increase in their knowledge on the energy market. Thanks to the advice of HEAs, the addressed consumers reached an ESI between 2% and 5% and a VEF between 0.5 to 2 (where the VEF varies from + 3 to -3). The HEAs reached the objective to support consumers in increasing comfort level and decreasing energy expenses.
Further ASSIST contributed to increase dialogue amongst stakeholders on energy poverty and nominated 6 national and 1 european steering committees to share project results and national strategies to tackle energy poverty. These activities led to the publication of a Policy Framework Paper with important recomendations for future policies addressing energy poverty.
In detail ASSIST has:
- carried out in-depth analysis and delivered reports illustrating the complete picture of how energy poverty is dealt within Europe and what initiatives have been implemented;
- Defined the HEA qualification scheme describing the profile of the Household Energy Advisor (HEA) and its knowledge, competencies and skills;
- Structured the ASSIST HEA training course and, in each country, according to the country context and the ASSIST strategy, adapted and built the training course;
- Trained HEAs and built the national network of HEAs;
- Defined the HEA network frames and ICT working environment;
- Defined the methodology to be adopted to monitor the impact of the HEA's actions - in terms of minimum common data to be collected, tools for its collection and data analysis process.
- Defined the action(s) to be implemented in each country by the HEAs and designed the tools and resources;
- Defined the evaluation mechanism and criteria for the HEAs actions,
- Supported HEAs in the delivery of the actions and monitored the impact in terms of energy saving as well as increased comfort level,
- Prepared the tools to facilitate the communication with consumers;
- Organised events for consumers and built a virtual consumer community (facebook);
- Collected and analysed the main problems of vulnerable consumers as reported to the HEAs;
- implemented or taken part in numerous activities at National and European level to increase awareness of actors coming from different sectors and promoted the dialogue between these actors. In each country and at European level a Steering Committee has been formed by 10 experts which has met on a yearly basis;
- carried out numerous activities to widely disseminate the project and carried out also online communication through: website ( twitter (@assist2gether) and facebook (@assist2gether) accounts. Communication material has been designed and translated in each language.

Some of the results achieved have a high level of exploitability and will be used throughout the project lifetime and also afterwards, specifically:
- tools and documents on the state of energy poverty in Europe,
- training platform and the training course for the HEAs training as well as the HEAs working ICT environment and all the tools and resources defined for the action,
- the national scheme of HEA and the relative national network of HEAs,
- the Policy Framework Paer on energy poverty
The project has now ended. The project has enabled to increase awraeness and knowledge on energy poverty in Europe, has built a professional prfoile to support consumers and has validate a successfull model.
Future follow-up of the ASSIST may vary from the adoption of the model within SECAPs or through private initiatives.