Millions of Europeans continue to struggle to pay their energy bills and keep their homes at comfortable temperatures, resulting in negative effects on their health and wellbeing. The problems have been exacerbated during the Covid-19 pandemic, requiring people to stay at home for extended periods of time. Two projects funded by Horizon 2020 Energy Efficiency are empowering households to take measures to save energy and improve their quality of life.
The STEP-IN project has rolled out living labs for hundreds of energy vulnerable citizens in three locations in the UK, Hungary and Greece through public workshops and free home energy advisor visits, testing different solutions in an iterative process. The tailored support, in some cases combined with monitoring equipment, has allowed households to make important savings by, for example, replacing old appliances or switching energy suppliers. The approach builds on stakeholder collaboration and is adaptable to local needs.
The STEP project has set up national networks and referral systems between consumer organisations and frontline workers in nine countries with some of the highest energy poverty rates in Europe. A key objective is to improve the living conditions of 15.000 households and set up cascade training of trusted frontline workers via (online) training modules, with a view to establishing a model that is replicable across Europe. Based on the activities, the project identifies policy recommendations and advocates for effective support schemes.
In response to the COVID crisis, both projects have swiftly adapted their approaches to include remote services, thereby ensuring that most vulnerable citizens continue to receive support. For example, STEP-IN has so far helped over 100 people in the United Kingdom via new remote services and is also exploring the impact of the pandemic on energy poor citizens to shape energy advice for the future.
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