Families across Europe struggle to keep their homes adequately warm every year. Energy poverty affects the life of over 50 million people in the EU, undermining their health and social well-being. The Horizon 2020 SMART-UP project trains people to become advisers and empower households to make small changes to their habits to improve their living conditions and help to reduce their energy bills.
SMART-UP trains energy advisors who visit householders and encourage the active use of smart meters and in-home displays by vulnerable consumers. Their target is to engage in total 5.000 households in France, Italy, Malta, Spain and the UK. To date more than 400 social workers have been trained and more than 4.400 vulnerable households have received their advice.
“I knew I had high energy consumption, but not having any data to compare it with, I was not aware of how high it was with respect to the average. I always thought it was high as a consequence of having my elder mother living with us. I will now pay much more attention to how I use energy and will eliminate all waste”, says Giovanni who lives with his family in a social house in Italy and has benefitted from the project.
In Spain the project inspired a social program funded by the Municipality of Barcelona to combat energy poverty. A householder in Spain stated “We already have a social bonus for the water, but thanks to the energy advisor and his insistence, now we are paying 100€ less for two months of gas and electricity consumption!”. Together with the Municipality, the SMART-UP project has trained 100 unemployed people to provide energy advice to the vulnerable households. Almost 1.850 households have already been visited by them and advised on how to use energy wisely, how to read and understand electricity and gas meters, and how to reduce their energy bills.
Public acceptance of the project has been increased by the involvement of the local authorities and it has also raised interest from other European cities. For example, representatives of the City of Rome recently went to Barcelona to learn from the experience there. SMART-UP is also an example of how a European project can help to launch a local initiative, and how the collaboration between them can increase their combined impact, in particular in local communities where support is needed most.