The STEP project takes a multi-pronged approach to energy poverty, but at the core of the project is energy advice. As the project partners are largely made up of national consumer organisations, one of the key goals for the project was to reach 15,000 consumers in or at risk of energy poverty, a target which was surpassed in February 2022.
“The advice for consumers had a key focus on two key issues: how to make your home more energy efficient, and what government schemes you might be eligible to apply for – whether this be a social payment or a subsidy for renovation,” explained William Baker, a project partner and UK energy expert.
Advice was given directly to consumers, either face-to-face or over the phone. This was made easier for some struggling Lithuanian consumers when a deal was struck to print the hotline number on the energy bills of over 200,000 consumers. Workshops were also run, and were usually designed for frontline workers, with partners running sessions for social workers, nurses, volunteers, and many other groups.
With the COVID-19 pandemic preventing in-person meetings for long periods of the project, training by digital means became a key aspect of the project. Online training modules were set up, with a key focus on training frontlines workers who could no longer join workshops. On top of energy advice, these modules educated users about the energy market and structure in their national context – and were made available in all nine languages of the project countries.
“At times we weren’t sure we’d reach so many consumers, despite the fact that energy advice was needed more than ever,” commented Astrid Aldous of Citizens Advice Reading. “But with the right support and sharing of best practices, we surpassed our targets. Beyond the end of the STEP project, the consumer organisations and newly-trained frontline workers will continue to provide consumers with high quality energy advice, helping them through this cost of living crisis.”