In line with the STEP project’s goals to assist vulnerable consumers in tackling energy poverty, Bulgarian consumer organization and STEP partner BNAAC recently conducted a study in the territory of the Fakulteta, Sofia with families from the Roma community who were at risk of energy poverty.

The aim of the study was to build a general understanding of the housing stock in the community, as well as the degree of energy poverty experienced by families in the neighborhood. The study included 202 households, and was informed by best practices shared by Horizon 2020 project STEP-IN, who had also worked with minority communities in Hungary.

One of the key issues that stood out to researchers was that most of the homes did not have thermal insulation. The maintenance of the housing stock often suffered problems, with leaking roofs, damp floors, moisture in the foundations, mold in the window and door frames all being recorded. In most cases, windows were single-glaze, leading to heat loss and higher energy bills, and consumers were unaware of the Certificate of Energy Efficiency.

On the whole, survey respondents felt that their homes were at an acceptable temperature for most of the year, but overheated during summer peaks and equally were too cold during the coldest days of winter. Respondents were more concerned about the cost of their energy bills, but only a small number of those surveyed considered completely turning off their heating due to the cost of energy.

Beyond the survey, frontline workers involved in the study also educated the consumers on how to make their homes more energy efficient. The recipients of the advice responded positively and were most keen to learn about zero and low cost energy efficiency measures, which STEP has previously shared via its YouTube videos and online modules. They were also educated on higher-cost measures such as purchasing more energy-efficient white goods and other appliances, and deep insulation retrofits. Finally, they were provided with low cost instruments to encourage such changes, such as LED light bulbs and insulation tape.

The project study provided frontline workers and the STEP project at large with a better understanding of energy poverty among vulnerable and minority communities, and aims to inform best practices among the STEP partners as well as the broader community dedicated to tackling energy poverty.

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The STEP project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 847080.