Many households including a majority of low-income households in Bulgaria still rely on low quality wood (wood with high moisture content) and coal for heating, utilised in low-efficiency stoves. This means they burn more wood than is technically necessary to stay warm, which drives up their actual costs and also creates more indoor and outdoor pollution. A large share of those households rely on social heating aid supplied through direct financial support later used to purchase low-quality fuels causing further environmental issues.
Recognising that the up-front cost of an efficient stove is a barrier for these households, the Energy Agency of Plovdiv (EAP) is proposing an innovative financing approach through broader stakeholder cooperation.
The EAP plans to initiate an innovative approach to energy poverty, by performing a crowdfunding campaign, targeting private businesses that are known to have a ‘green conscience’. Funds raised will be used to purchase and install heating systems with high COP and low emissions in energy-poor households. High quality fuel will be also supplied in order to engage households to participate. Residents will also receive training in how to use the new stoves correctly and other tips for more efficient energy use in their home, with volunteers from Schneider Electric bringing their expertise from past campaigns.
While households will reap the immediate benefit of greater thermal comfort for lower cost, the campaign taps into the power of corporate social responsibility and the opportunity to deliver community benefits of reduced harvesting of wood from local forests and better air quality. In this way, energy efficiency in homes contributes to sustainability over the long term, raising citizens' awareness of the impact of domestic heating on the air quality.
Initially, the strategy will be tested at local levels with the aim of turning it into a national action. Campaign results will be further on brought to policy makers.
Energy Agency Plovdiv is one of 15 finalists in the 2019 Social Innovation to Tackle Energy Poverty Initiative, launched by the Schneider Electric Foundation and the Ashoka Foundations of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Romania.