After three years of hard work in tackling energy poverty, Horizon 2020 funded project ASSIST is approaching its end. It has built a successful model to support consumers in need, which can be 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.
ASSIST offers a two-way approach to energy poverty: active engagement of consumers in the energy market, and a positive change of behaviour in relation to energy consumption able to influence the design of policies at all levels.
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.
The ASSIST Team trained around 100 HEAs per participating country (Belgium, Finland, Italy, Poland, Spain, and UK). They came from different working contexts, became members of their national ASSIST HEA network, and carried out soft actions and ASSIST actions to inform and provide direct advice to consumers. The project created the training resources for the HEAs empowerment as well as the resources and tools to adequately address energy-poor and vulnerable consumers (such as videos and factsheets).
ASSIST also monitored HEAs' actions and evaluated its impact. To do so, they used various indicators such as the number of trained HEAs, the number of active HEAs in the field, or the number of vulnerable/poor consumers reached. The impact of the HEAs was not only measured in terms of energy efficiency and financial savings. Taking into account only those indicators can be problematic, especially as people in deep energy poverty are under-consuming due to not being able to afford the bill. Because of that, there was an additional focus on measuring the impact in terms of vulnerability, quality of life, and energy savings.
The main results of ASSIST are:
- More than 100 trained HEAs per country,
- 50% of the HEAs active in assisting consumers in need,
- More than 10.000 consumers reached per country through soft actions of the HEAs (newsletters, mailshots, social media, etc.)
- About 750 consumers reached per country through ASSIST on the ground activities (energy cafè, home visits, helpdesk, bill audit, etc.)
- Between 2% and 5% household energy saved (electricity and gas) by the consumers assisted by the HEAs ,
- Between 0.5 to 2 increased VEF – Vulnerability Empowerment Factor: indicator created by ASSIST to measure increase of empowerment of vulnerable consumers (from + 3 to -3)
- Increased comfort level and decreased energy expenses.
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