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Solutions to Tackle Energy Poverty

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - STEP (Solutions to Tackle Energy Poverty)

Reporting period: 2019-06-01 to 2020-11-30

• What is the problem/issue being addressed?
Nearly 11% of the EU's population is in a situation where they are not able to adequately heat, cool or power their homes at an affordable cost, according to the study on vulnerable consumers in the EU energy sector from 2015. Between 2008 and 2016, electricity bills for households grew by 26.4% and the average final price for gas rose by 8.9% in the same period. Many low-income households spend much higher proportions of their income on fuel than their richer peers, with often high levels of indebtedness, while others ration or go without essential energy services, often putting their physical and mental health at risk.

• Why is it important for society?
Low-cost energy efficiency measures - such as information campaigns and tips, demonstrations of cost savings, installation of no- and low-cost energy efficiency measures - have the potential to reduce consumer energy bills and provide some relief to energy poor households. However, uptake of energy efficiency measures is slow, many consumers remain unaware of the potential savings that could be made and end up paying high energy bills. This indicates that, although some initiatives are already in place, there is a need to nudge consumers and guide energy efficient behaviour, especially in countries with the highest rates of energy poverty.

• What are the overall objectives?
The general objective of STEP (Solutions to Tackle Energy Poverty), H2020 project, is to alleviate energy poverty by facilitating behavioural change through trusted, tailored advice provided directly to consumers in or at risk of energy poverty and by implementing low-cost energy efficiency solutions in energy poor households. The specific objectives are:
• to develop well-functioning and well-trained national networks of advisors from consumer and frontline organisations who are in direct contact with consumers in or at risk of energy poverty
• to improve living conditions of consumers in or at risk of energy poverty through behaviour change and implementation of no- or low-cost energy efficiency measures
• to create schemes contributing to the alleviation of energy poverty, promote their replication and draw policy recommendations
Through low-cost energy efficiency measures - such as information campaigns and tips, demonstrations of cost savings, installation of no- and low-cost energy efficiency measures – STEP has the potential to reduce consumer energy bills and provide relief to households in energy poverty. Furthermore, through the institutionalisation of energy efficiency advice in sustainable consumer networks, we anticipate long term impacts and sustainability of STEP.
During June 2019- November 2020, the STEP consortium developed a better understanding on the state of play of energy poverty in the project countries and on how to reach consumers in or at risk of energy poverty. STEP created reports on the definitions of energy poverty available at national level, its causes and the available measures and the support schemes to tackle it:
o D2.1 Targeting energy poor consumers report
o D2.2 Defining energy poverty in STEP project countries
o D2.3 Summary of available support schemes in STEP project countries
o D2.4 Best practices in STEP project countries

Partners have created new partnership agreements for further implementing the project. More details on these can be found in the public report D4.1 on partnership agreements. In addition, referral processes have been put in place on how to recommend consumers for advice and published under deliverable D4.2 on referral processes.

The training programme framework was created as part of deliverable D3.1 and presents what training modules can be used online and offline and adapted to energy advisors or consumers. On top of this, initial modules have been made available to partners and an online training platform (Moodle) was set up. Partners have already made use of this for reaching out to frontline workers and consumer advisors during the pandemic.

The delivery to target groups started but was deeply impacted by the pandemic during 2020. Partners made all efforts to adapt the delivery of advice to online or other means of communications. An in-depth report of their successes and lessons learned is available in the interim reports summarising the energy advice provided to consumers through direct contact (D5.1) and indirect contact (D5.2).

As for the advocacy side, an assessment of the provisions of energy poverty in the Clean Energy for All Europeans package was developed (deliverable D6.1) as well as A first set of policy recommendations (deliverable D6.3). A strategy document for lobbying campaigns was put in place and made available to partners via deliverable D6.2. Partners often use these when meeting with local and national authorities as it is presented in the Report on the advocacy activities towards policy makers and stakeholders at national level (D6.4).
The project has a website in place, promotional materials available for offline and online channels, a trimestral newsletter as well as communication strategy regarding its dissemination actions (deliverable D7.1). Partners often participate in meetings and events to promote the project, networks of advocates for energy efficiency policy measures. An overview of this is included in the report on the communication and dissemination activities (D7.3).

Data privacy has been included in all the Energy Saving Evaluation model created (D1.3) and Consumer questionnaires (D1.2). Guidance has been made available for all advisors handling consumer data. After the pandemic all the questionnaires have also been updated to reflect the new realities.
STEP will achieve the impacts as proposed by the call. We expect that over 6,000 consumers will be reached by frontline workers and approximately 9,000 consumers will receive advise from energy advisors in different ways. Our biggest challenge besides adapting all training and advice to the online is bridging the gap of digital outreach to the most vulnerable consumers. We are looking forward to the best practices that are to be gained in the field which can be further shared with other H2020 projects.

The STEP project is already setting up support schemes in the target countries which provide energy advice and support to energy consumers – including guidance on how to apply for financial support schemes. Some consortium members also provide low-cost energy efficiency measures (CAR, LPIAA) on top of the advice. As a result, consumers are guided to change their behaviour and invest in low-cost energy efficient measures which will lead to consumers enjoying more comfort in their households, improved health and well-being.

At the same time, the STEP consortium advocates for better and more effective energy efficiency policies. ALCO (Advocacy WP6 leader) created a new set of policy recommendations that is adapted to the European Green Deal and takes into account the impact of COVID-19 pandemic. This tool goes beyond the initial recommendations and supports partners to advocate for consumer rights and policy into the new pandemic context.
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