Social Innovation to Tackle Energy Poverty

Transforming a challenge… 

According to the EU Energy Poverty Observatory more than 50 million households in the European Union are struggling to attain adequate warmth, pay their utility bills on time and live in homes free of damp and mold. In the CEE region alone, the percentage of people unable to keep home adequately warm in 2016 ranged from 4,7% in Czech Republic to 41,3% in Bulgaria. On top of that, in 2017 the percentage of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion in the region was well above 20% in most of the countries, with higher figures in Romania (36%) and Bulgaria (39%). 


…into an opportunity. 

After a successful partnership in 2015-2016, 2017-2018, for 2019 the Schneider Electric Foundation, under the aegis of the Fondation de France, and Ashoka, have renewed their commitment to helping improve the living conditions of millions of people facing energy poverty in Europe.To improve the impact of the project, Enel Romania has joined our efforts as local partner. It is by offering support for the most innovative social entrepreneurs in Europe that we can help entire communities tackle energy poverty and move towards energy sustainability. 


What energy poverty is? 

Energy poverty has multiple root causes and there is no standard definition that can encompass all of them. Currently the explanation with the widest acceptance states that energy poverty refers to the inability of a household to ensure energy services it needs at affordable costs (Liddell et al., 2012).  

For the Social Innovation to Tackle Energy Poverty Solutions Accelerator we consider energy poverty to be:  

  • Cross-sector collaboration: Leveraging synergies with other sectors (e.g. health, social care) to build more systemic projects; 

  • Education, training, and employment: Boosting education and promoting community engagement, creating new skills and/or jobs in the fields of energy efficiency and renewable energy; 

  • Energy efficiency: Crafting low cost opportunities to switch to more efficient energy solutions; 

  • Energy production: Facilitating poor neighbourhoods' access to energy by implementing creative ways to produce energy (energy communities, grids, cooperatives); 

  • Innovative funding: Offering funding and partnerships for private initiatives to build and/or renovate energy-efficient housing or equipment (e.g. credit, equipment leasing, third-party financing); 

  • Mapping and raising awareness: Gathering and/or sharing data with interoperable systems to improve the identification of the population affected by energy poverty and their needs, and raising awareness among public authorities; 

  • Health, Wellbeing and Economic Development: Switching from unhealthy behaviors (old equipment, burning plastic and domestic waste) to other solutions that can improve the wellbeing of the family;   

And much more, as we think that innovative solutions can cover energy poverty causes from points of view never explored before. You can find below some great stories of previous finalists and winners as examples to what energy poverty means for us.  

Stromspar-Check by Deutsche Caritas – an initiative in collaboration with the German Federation of Energy and Climate Protection Agencies (eaD), to offer an energy-saving check that provides cost-free support to low-income households in Germany. Formerly long-time unemployed people receive a specific training to advice low-income households on how to save energy and water. By raising awareness of energy-saving actions, Stromspar-Check helps prevent energy cut-offs. 

EKPIZO - a customers’ association “The quality of life” to protect consumers rights and improve their quality of life. Its lobbying efforts aim to encourage the government and the Energy Regulatory Authority to implement EU and national legislation. They also help their members with legal out-of-court actions to get back money that has been illegally withheld by companies. 

AISFOR – a company working in the green sector focusing on the environment, agriculture, and energy. It is one of the partners leading the H2020 European project “ASSIST”, which aims to tackle the issue of energy poverty by creating a professional figure (Vulnerable Consumer Energy Advisor) trained to assist vulnerable people with high quality and trustworthy advice. 

Chance for buildings - their objective is to improve the energy efficiency of social housing in order to reduce energy poverty in Czech Republic in the long term. Currently, social payments are covering energy bills for the vulnerable population living in social housing. However, Chance for Building advocates that a more strategic solution would be to reduce the energy bills with more efficient buildings. 

Coopérnico – a green energy cooperative that combines sustainability, ethical investment, and social support. Its members collectively invest in solar power projects that are owned by the cooperative and installed on the roofs of social support organisations that often struggle to cover their own energy costs. 

ECODES – an organisation that runs the project “No home without energy”, which offers a technological solution to overcome energy poverty. Its website offers a questionnaire that manages to gather social, household, and energy contract data from vulnerable people and returns a personalised report with advice on how to reduce energy consumption and energy costs. It also offers an interactive map that allows anyone to find initiatives and subsidies to tackle energy poverty in their city of region. 

Samenlevingsopbouw - a project destined to people with debts suffering from fuel poverty. Because of these debts, they can’t replace their old consuming appliances for energy saving ones and they continue to have expensive energy bills. Samenlevingsopbouw is a lease/rent system where people can rent energy saving appliances and reduce their energy bill. This innovative project is a smart and replicable mean to give access to efficient appliances to people who could not afford them beforehand. 

Reseau Echo Habitat - aims at providing access to isolated and unaware fl-poor households to the financial aid schemes of the French Agency for Housing improvement (ANAH). Eco Habitat accompanies housing facing energy poverty to choose the best financial and technical solutions. In order to do so, they count on a network of local stakeholders (public authorities, public operators, associations, construction operators) collaborating and using their strengths to find the best solutions to renovate households while protecting the environment, using bio sourced materials. 


The Call for Projects 

We are launching a new Call for Projects to identify, engage, and support social innovators with creative solutions to tackle energy poverty in five European countries: Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. The Call for Projects will be open between on February 21st, 2019, at 9 AM CET and April 12th 2019 at midnight CET. Do you have a project tackling energy poverty? Find out if you are eligible to join this program on the Apply page!


The perks  

This program is fully funded. If selected as finalist, you will benefit from the following: 

  1. 2 days of intensive workshops to kick start your mentoring period and acquire knowledge and tools regarding systems change, social financing, social impact reporting, communications;  

  1. 5 months of mentoring support to help you craft and improve your strategy to accelerate the social impact of your project; 

  2. additional support for Schneider Electric employees on technical or non technical topics;

  3. Inspiring meetings and networking events within the European network of fellow social innovators, experts, and organizations working in this field; 

  4. Increased visibility through our social media campaign and at our final event in Bucharest, where winners will be announced. We will communicate about you and your projects across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube;

  1. Access to potential additional grants from Schneider Electric; 

  1. Being part of the community of innovators in the field alongside the previous winners and finalists (opportunity for peer – to – peer learning); 

  2. Even more, if you selected as winner, you will also receive a 3.500-euro prize money 


About Us  

Ashoka is an international non-profit organization with the vision to create a world where everyone is a changemaker. Over the past 40 years, Ashoka has devoted its energy to discover and support the most innovative entrepreneurial solutions to tackle social and environmental challenges. Nowadays, Ashoka counts over 3600 Fellows in over 93 countries. In addition to selecting and supporting the so-called Ashoka Fellows, the organization attempts to amplify the impact of their solutions and to deepen the co-creation of new solutions by promoting collaboration between social entrepreneurs, companies, and the public authority. For more information about Ashoka and its work, please visit:

Created in 1998, the Schneider Electric Foundation, under the aegis of the Fondation de France, has worked together with its partners to implement solutions to address the energy issues faced by the world’s most underprivileged people. In emerging economies, the Foundation supports professional training programs in energy-related trades, thereby contributing to the Schneider Electric Access to Energy program. In mature economies, the Foundation fights against energy poverty by offering training and awareness-raising programs for the concerned households. The Schneider Electric Foundation pays special attention to the involvement of its employees across all programs. For more information about the Schneider Electric Foundation and its work, please visit:

Program Videos