Almost three years of work, in 7 countries, with highly satisfying results in terms of social impact and a relevant set of lessons learnt. Despite the last 10 months of pandemics, challenging face to face activities, the 3 Living Labs of the project reached an impressive amount of people experiencing energy deprivation, with delivery of concrete support and long lasting competences, thus improving their living conditions. The Living Labs were conceived as to represent pilot experiences in real settings: the Urban LL was set up in Manchester (UK), the mountaineous LL was set up in Metsovo (GR) end the rural LL was set up in Nyrbátor (HU). Although the context is quite different, their methodology relies on common assumptions, such as the direct engagement of households, the development of custom solutions through the involvement of multiple stakeholders, the use of ICT tools to collect starting point data an to monitor achievements, the work with advisors both at home and in the Energy Cafés. Energy cafés provide an informal space in which households can meet with energy saving experts and receive advice, in a relaxed environment over a drink and some food. The energy cafés provide opportunities for local households to ask questions and discuss issues with energy experts, so that the communication is bi-directional and interactive, a process that has shown to be effective at building trust and enhancing learning outcomes.
In the UK, the Greater Manchester Living Lab carried out 868 advisor visits or calls, involving a total of 565 households, organised 4 Energy Cafés and 4 Live Chats: it was observed a direct energy bill saving of 8.6 % per year, which is expected to last for the next 10 years, across all households participating in the project, mainly thanks to debt maximisation and tariff switching.
In Greece, 150 households were involved in the Metsovo Living Lab, with 350 visits; 3 Energy Cafés were organised (the last online) with over 100 participants in all. Some key facts: about 75% of the participants found STEP-IN useful; among them, 25% stated a “Change in everyday habits”, 25% said “Better understanding of energy bills”, 19% “Change/maintenance of heating system”, 18% “More efficient use of heating system”, 9% “Implementation of energy retrofit measures”, 4% “Use of special night tariff”. About 50% said that the thermal conditions in their homes improved, 24% mentioned a reduction in energy expenses, 19% said that they noticed moisture/mould reduction and 6% said that they managed to pay their energy bills on time. An ICT “Energy cost and savings calculator” online and 6 videos with energy advice were created.
In Hungary, 611 household participated in the Nyrbàtor Living Lab, with more than 1000 contacts; 7 Energy Cafés were organised, with a total number of 149 participants. A successful energy awareness School Programme was carried out. The project team in Hungary managed to re-connect 13 households to the energy grid. Based on the home visit questionnaire, the ICT app created a personalised energy report for the households, thanks to the monitoring equipment installed (‘smart meters’ and temperature and humidity monitors).
The STEP-IN project created 2 versions of its advanced ICT Tools (software, platform), the first targeting the energy advisors as primary users, the second providing consumers with further functionalities such as freestanding advice, integrated through a media centre where consumers can access general information specific to their country, region and city on how to improve quality of life regarding energy.
The STEP-IN Network of Interest gathers 46 experts from 6 different stakehoders’ categories: Industrial representatives, Local/Regional authorities, Consumers and advocacy, Practitioners, EU & National policy-makers and regulators, Academia & think tanks. Two NoI workshops were organised for each group, to provide the basis for policy papers. In addition, STEP-IN is establishing connections with other relevant EU and national projects in the field of energy poverty.
The STEP-IN project presents its results in a big international conference, online on 18 February 2021. Time: 8.30-13.15. Participation is free of charge, the registration can be accessed at https://www.eventleaf.com/right-to-fair-energy.
The agenda can be downloaded here:The Right to Fair Energy Access Conference Agenda