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Solutions to Tackle Energy Poverty

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - STEP (Solutions to Tackle Energy Poverty)

Periodo di rendicontazione: 2020-12-01 al 2022-05-31

•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 reduced consumer energy bills and provided relief to households in energy poverty. Furthermore, through the institutionalisation of energy efficiency advice in sustainable consumer networks, we ensured long term impacts and sustainability of STEP.
During June 2019-May 2022, 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:
- D2.1 Targeting energy poor consumers report
- D2.2 Defining energy poverty in STEP project countries
- D2.3 Summary of available support schemes in STEP project countries
- D2.4 Best practices in STEP project countries

Partners established new partnership agreements for further implementing the project on partnership agreements, as described in the report D4.1. In addition, referral processes have been put in place on how to recommend consumers for advice and published under deliverable D4.2.

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

The delivery to target groups started but was deeply impacted by the pandemic during 2020. Partners made efforts to adapt the delivery of advice to online or other means of communications, which allowed them reach more than 16.000 consumers and train more than 1,000 frontline workers, thus exceeding the targets of consumers reached through the project. An in-depth report of their successes and lessons learned is available in the final reports summarising the energy advice provided to consumers through direct contact (D5.3) and indirect contact (D5.6).

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 (D6.3). A strategy document for lobbying campaigns was put in place and made available to partners via deliverable D6.2. Partners often used these when meeting with local and national authorities, as described in the report on the advocacy activities towards policy makers and stakeholders at national level (D6.4 and D6.5).

The project has a website, promotional materials available for offline and online channels, a quarterly newsletter as well as communication and dissemination strategy (deliverable D7.1). Partners often participated in meetings and events to promote the project, networks of advocates for energy efficiency policy measures. An overview of this is included in the reports on the communication and dissemination activities (D7.3 and D7.4) as well as in the report on the STEP final event (D7.5) which took place in Brussels on the 18 May 2022.

Data privacy was included in all the Energy Saving Evaluation model created (D1.3) and Consumer questionnaires (D1.2). Guidance was available for all advisors handling consumer data. After the pandemic all the questionnaires have were updated to reflect the new realities. please include an overview of the results and their exploitation and dissemination).
STEP achieved the impacts as proposed by the call and in some cases overreached the initial target. Despite the Pandemic and resulting lockdowns significantly impacting our ability to deliver in-person interventions, each partner adapted their working methods and managed to carry out the activities, finally reaching more than 16,000 consumers, 8,234 with direct contact and 8,455 indirectly. While adapting all training and advice to the online model, our biggest challenge was bridging the gap of digital outreach to the most vulnerable consumers. To tackle this, partners came up with different alternatives, such as call centers, one-stop-shops, outdoors workshops, TV appearances, etc.

The STEP project also set 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 provided low-cost energy efficiency measures (CCA, DECO, FK, LPIAA, SOS) on top of the advice. As a result, consumers were guided to change their behaviour and invest in low-cost energy efficient measures leading consumers to enjoy more comfort in their households, improved health and well-being.

At the same time, the STEP consortium advocated for better and more effective energy efficiency policies and provided two sets of policy recommendations, to take into account the impact of COVID-19 pandemic, thus allowing partners to advocate for consumer rights and policy into the new pandemic context.
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