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Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries show ‘High’ to ‘Extreme’ levels of energy poverty, according to a new report released by the Right to Energy (R2E) Coalition on 20 February 2019. Collectively, these countries account for a large share of the estimated >50 million EU citizens who cannot afford enough energy to support their health and well-being. In extreme cases, families may have to choose whether to ‘heat or eat’ in winter.   

Tackling energy poverty by boosting the capacity of local social innovators is the aim of a mentoring program launched today by Ashoka and the Schneider Electric Foundation, with the support of Enel Romania as local partner. Social Innovation to Tackle Energy Poverty is a ‘Solutions Accelerator’ Program targeting five CEE countries: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Romania. Among EU countries, the five selected rank poorly in the R2E report: Bulgaria (28), Hungary (27), Czech Republic (15), Poland (14) and Romania (13). This reflects not only the inability to be warm in winter, but also to stay cool in summer – both are a growing concern with climate change predicted to bring more cold snaps and heat waves across the EU. With CEE countries having incomes below the EU average, expected increases in energy prices could drive many more people into energy poverty.  

"This Program, like those we’ve run in the past, aims to identify, engage and support to scale-up 15-20 innovative organisations that offer creative and systems-changing solutions to tackle energy poverty and promote energy sustainability" says Patricia Benchenna, Director of Philanthropy for the Schneider Electric Foundation.   

“In Europe, Ashoka has been pioneering for nearly four years with an unprecedented approach to energy poverty - lack of access to modern forms of energy or inability to provide a minimum level of thermal comfort in the household at acceptable costs. We are glad to be able to bring this Solutions Accelerator to Central and Eastern Europe countries where social innovations in the field of energy poverty are most needed.” says Arnaud Mourot, VP Ashoka Global 

Considering the complexity of tackling energy poverty, the Accelerator Program will consider projects across a wide range of areas, including: cross-sector collaboration; education, training and employment; energy efficiency: energy production; innovative funding; mapping and raising awareness; and health, well-being and economic development. Applications can be made online until Friday, April 12th, 00:00 CET.