[30.01.23 – edited 21.11.23] Energy and water saving measures in the energy crisis – in 10 languages!

By Altan Sahin, Austrian Energy Agency 


Targeted services for tackling energy poverty 

In Austria, various support services are in place to help low-income households to reduce their energy consumption and related costs and to make it more sustainable. These services range from on-site consultations to various information materials. However, the existing information and support formats are often not prepared in a suitable form, as this target group(s) often do not have the time or resources to deal with sophisticated tools and detailed materials and usually energy poor households are not specifically targeted either. Within the framework of the ENPOR project, new formats were created to support energy poor households in Austria in a more targeted manner. The aim is not to create duplications, but rather to complement the existing offer of support by further developing what is already available. DIE UMWELTBERATUNG has been offering energy counselling for energy poor households in the target region of Vienna for many years. The Austrian Energy Agency initiated the co-operation with Die Umweltberatung within the framework of the co-creation process in the Austrian ENPOR REACT group, to bring the greatest added value to advisory services for affected households. 

Benefits for private rental situations 

The stakeholder consultation and co-creation process in the REACT group led to revise already existing information materials on saving energy in private households and to create new advisory materials. These materials differ from previous offers by focusing on visual language, thus offering a clear advantage for this hard-to-reach target group by conveying information with as few words as possible using illustrations and pictograms. This communication method makes it easier to overcome language barriers or lack of background knowledge. While this brings benefits for energy poor households in general, it plays a particularly relevant role for those in the private rental sector. Households privately renting their apartments often bring about energy savings or energy cost reductions through behavioural changes, as they lack the funds for investments and also the decision-making authority for more comprehensive measures as non-owners. The German version of these materials have been completed and are used active counselling in the target region of Vienna. The feedback from households so far has been very positive. Currently, AEA is in the process to translate these materials in additional languages to facilitate access for socially disadvantaged groups, especially with migration background. As soon as all versions are completed, they will be made available via ENPOR. 

What happened until now: Austrian Federal Ministry becomes active for tackling energy poverty 

Over the last year, there has been an ongoing exchange between the Austrian Energy Agency and the Austrian Federal Ministry for Climate Protection, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology on the issue of energy poverty. In the course of this exchange, the first REACT group meeting in Austria took place, which was also attended by other relevant stakeholders, such as representatives of important interest groups in Austria, like the Chamber of Labour, as well as important social organisations like Caritas. The focus of the discussion was on possible medium- to long-term measures to combat energy poverty, their planning and an official definition of energy poverty, which currently does not exist in Austria. The ENPOR project and its implementation actions in Austria were well received and participants dived into discussions on how similar measures could possibly be implemented nationwide and what important experiences could be taken from them that could be relevant for other activities in this field.  The various stakeholders agreed that more concrete measures need to be taken in Austria to support energy poor households. However, the appropriate foundation to really reach affected households is key, especially in the private rental sector. The biggest challenge identified was to establish an official definition of energy poverty, a basis of definition for affected households and a foundation to set up targeted support measures. In addition, the housing situation in Austria varies greatly between urban and rural regions, an issue that calls for different approaches in urban and in rural settings. All participants agreed that more measures are needed to support energy poor households. Therefore, the planned measures of ENPOR in Austria were warmly welcomed and demonstrate that the political will is there to make a difference and that more targeted political measures should now be implemented in Austria. 

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