Asociace Občanských Poraden (AOP, Association of Citizens Advice Centres) aims to launch a nationwide model of energy counseling that would improve energy efficiency, thereby tackling a key cause of energy poverty.
In the Czech Republic, many energy consumers are locked into contracts with high prices; as a result, energy bills account for a large share of their household expenditures. The AOP, which has been providing citizen advice on diverse topics since the 1990s, plans to add targeted and client-centric energy counseling services. Helping people re-negotiate fair energy contracts will be a key activity to enable them to save money and break out of energy poverty.
The proposed innovation will also make a significant contribution to saving public money, as a large portion (~60%) of social assistance payments for housing were used for energy needs. In 2015, such energy payments added up to EUR 275 million from the state budget.
The AOP identifies four overarching challenges associated with their project:
Technical innovation is not enough to eliminate energy poverty; clients and stakeholders also need to change their energy behavior.
More flexibility is necessary on the part of both energy providers and clients; the latter may need to adapt to changed living conditions.
Advancing beyond passive measures (such as receiving assistance) to actively changing patterns of energy use within the household will need to consider individual needs and capabilities.
Moving from isolated initiatives to integrated measures across social, economic and environmental sectors requires engagement of a broader range of stakeholders.
This project is currently in the planning phase, but the AOP hopes the TEP social innovation accelerator can help create a viable model for financing the service and support its launch in the near future. Currently, the AOP is also exploring a call from the European Social Funds and hopes the mentoring and advice will strengthen its bid and chances of success.
Asociace Občanských Poraden is one of 15 finalists in the Social Innovation to Tackle Fuel Poverty Initiative, Energy Poverty Initiative, launched by the Schneider Electric Foundation and the Ashoka Foundations of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Romania.