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Empowering women to take action against energy poverty in the Mediterranean

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - EmpowerMed (Empowering women to take action against energy poverty in the Mediterranean)

Reporting period: 2019-09-01 to 2021-02-28

In the coastal areas of Mediterranean countries, the challenge of energy poverty comes with some specific features. The area is remarkable mainly because during the summer season, cooling component of energy poverty is highlighted. Summer thermal comfort becomes more and more an issue in this area as heat waves are becoming increasingly more frequent and intense. Lack of pre-installed central heating systems and electricity-based heating are another specificity of this region. Dwellings have none or low insulation and there is a high level of deteriorated housing stock, which makes the situation more challenging. Additional key aspects of the region are arrears, indebtedness and the risk of disconnection, as well the link between energy poverty and housing insecurity with evictions as the worst consequence of housing unaffordability. Because coastal urban areas are ‘hotspots’ of tourism, tensions between locals’ and tourists’ demand for housing lead to housing unaffordability. Lastly, coastal urban areas are also affected by precarious, low-quality jobs.

Women and women-led households are disproportionately affected by energy poverty, while women’s participation is necessary in acting against energy poverty. Due to labour division, women tend to spend more time working at home and thus are more exposed to energy poverty and its consequences. Generally, there is a higher share of women who are at risk of poverty and social exclusion than men. Women are also more heat and cold sensitive than men due to physiology.

Energy poverty has significant impacts on people’s health. Health effects associated with energy poverty include anxiety, stress and depression but also increased physical morbidity rates and greater mortality rise. Economic and social difficulties that people affected by energy poverty face (such as debts or social isolation) lead to impacts on mental health.

Against this backdrop, project EmpowerMed aims to contribute to energy poverty alleviation and health improvement of people affected by energy poverty in the coastal areas of Mediterranean countries, with a particular focus on women, through:
- implementing practical solutions, tailored to empower over 4,200 households affected by energy poverty to manage their energy consumption and improve their access to appropriate energy resources,
- assessing the efficiency and impacts of various practical energy poverty alleviation measures to formulate local, national and EU policy recommendations and
- promoting the policy solutions for tackling energy poverty at local, national and EU level among 220 decision-makers, 560 social actors, 100 utilities, 180 health experts and 100 energy poverty experts.
So far, several important activities were implemented in the project. The first step for the partners was to elaborate a detailed analysis of the pilot sites, resulting in 6 reports on the situation in the pilot sites. Next, two key reports were finalized, one on the analysis of experiences and lessons learned in previous projects and one on the analysis of financial schemes for energy poverty from gender perspective. In parallel, the partners were mobilising key local actors and stakeholders for cooperation on the project. 45 meetings (or other forms of interaction) with 166 local actors were implemented. Based on the dialogue with the local actors, as well as on the analysis of the local situation, the action plans for implementing the project were fine-tuned.

Also in parallel, training materials were compiled and partners, as well as the key local actors, were trained to implement activities to tackle energy poverty in practice. First a set of 19 different training materials and tools was developed. A series of 28 training sessions and workshops were implemented to share the existing know-how and experiences among the partners. Partners then implemented 12 further training events for local actors, sharing know-how and experience with over 170 local actors.

Equipped with knowledge, the partners and their local allies started to implement the practical activities for tackling energy poverty, which represent the core of the project. 36 collective assemblies, reaching out to 691 people (of whom 389 women) were organised. 100 household visits were implemented in Albania to empower household members to reduce energy and water use. During the visit, energy audit and analytics were performed by the energy advisors. Based on the identified potentials, the advisors implemented low-cost measures by installing free devices, which will help the household reduce energy and water use. They also gave advice for using the devices, changing energy use habits and further possible steps. 2 workshops for DIY small low-cost measures were implemented to show 66 participants how to implement small low-cost measures in practice. 5 health workshops were implemented in Barcelona, providing support for 30 people. To monitor the implementation of these measures, framework for data collection and analysis was developed, as well as a set of data collection tools and manuals.

In the advocacy field, first steps were taken to convene meetings of interdisciplinary working groups at national and at EU level. First advocacy activities encompassed reaching out to decision-makers to present EmpowerMed’s advocacy plans, advocating for changes in electricity supply law regarding definition of households affected by energy poverty and protection of vulnerable consumers, appealing to the government to ensure support for households, affected by energy poverty, during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Apart from that, the communication and dissemination plan of the project was prepared, as well as the visual identity and presentation tools of the project (video, leaflet, canvas bag, presentation and media pack). Partners also set up a project web site. So far, the project was presented on 26 occasions (in events, on websites or radio/TV), with a combined reach out to more than 54.900 people. Media work was done through 15 press releases, resulting in 65 media appearances, which have a combined estimated reach to over 2.427.000 people. 261 social media appearances covered the project, reaching out to over 123.600 people.
As the project is still running its core activities, it is too early for a full assessment of the project impacts. It is expected that by the end of the project 10,200 women and men in 6 pilot areas will be empowered to tackle energy poverty. This will result in primary energy savings of 6.5 GWh/year, reduction of CO2 emissions of 1.600 tCO2/year, 160.000 € of investments in sustainable energy and 780.000 € of economic savings. Project is also expected to free 50 women and men of debt or disconnection. Altogether, the project is expected to engage over 1000 key actors and contribute to policy and best practice development on energy poverty with 8 policies/measures.