The underpinning concept of the Horizon 2020 project ASSIST is that vulnerable consumers facing energy poverty deal with numerous and different problems – from the right choice of the energy contract, to the payment of the energy bills, to the lack of money to take-up energy efficient measures moving to health problems leading also to social exclusion.
To support consumers in energy poverty there is a need of a building a fully competent on-the-ground operator who has direct and good relationships with consumers and who is competent on all the energy poverty related issues. A figure which is not foreseen in the energy-consumer market and a consumer is obliged to seek advice and support with several operators increasing the barriers and difficulties faced by the consumer itself.
The aim of ASSIST was to design and test an innovative and holistic model based on a figure specifically empowered and trained on all energy poverty issues: the Household Energy Advsisor (HEA).
The idea is that the Household Energy Advsisor’s competencies, skills and knowledge must reflect the multi-disciplinary and multi-sectorial nature of the phenomenon. Therefore the HEA has been conceived to target all operators (whatever their sectorial context) working on the field to support people who are not able to fully satisfy their energy needs. The HEA-centric ASSIST model includes TRAINING – NETWORKING – ACTIONS activitities of operators on the ground already providing support to consumers interested in assisting consumers also on their energy poverty related issues.
This wide and holistic methodological approach has been the basis of all the project activities:
1. the HEA qualification scheme considers all possible working contexts (institutional, social and energy), therefore the full HEA training course includes modules on all realted topics - energy, social, communication, ethic, etc – in order to fill in all the knowledge gas indepndenty from the working background of the HEA.
2. the network of trained HEAs includes actors with different working contexts, experience and perspective providing furter added value and an opportunity for continuous exchange and communication between network members
3. the actions were delivered by the trained HEAs with a top-down and bottom-up reaching consumers seeking for help in different problems but all with the common energy poor situation
The main results of ASSIST are:
More than 100 trained HEAs in each of the following countries: Belgium, Spain, Italy, Finland, Poland and the UK;
50% of the HEAs active in assisting consumers in need;
More than 423.300 consumers reached in 6 countries ;
More than 5242 consumers reached in 6 countries 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.
The ASSIST project proved that the envisaged HEA-centric model is valid and actually the empowered figure of the HEA is needed in society as nowadays consumers are struggling with their energy needs and bills face numerous problems and do not know where and to whom ask advice. The ASSIST project has delivered a validated model to tackle energy poverty in different working contexts from municipalities within the SECAPs to social and energy actors.
The work that needs to be done is to promote the take-up and replicability of the model and it is important now that all actors play their role to shift the focus of ASSIST from a piloting case to a real and concrete solution to tackle energy poverty. We need the help of multipliers to generate snowball effect for the take-up of the Household energy agents – HEA - essential to combat energy poverty.
More about the ASSIST2GETHER project
ASSIST – Support Network for Household Energy Saving - is a European project funded by the European Commission within the H2020 programme. 12 partners coming from 6 countries coordinated by AISFOR (Italy) carried out numerous activities from 2017 to 2020.
ASSIST aim was to contribute to fight energy poverty by facing 3 “big challenges / changes”:
1. actively empower consumers in the energy market,
2. generate a positive change of behaviour in relation to energy consumption and
3. influence the design of energy poverty-oriented policies