According to the European Commission, about 11% of the European Union's population - 54 million people - live in energy poverty. Overcoming this value is therefore a cross-cutting challenge, whose resolution should know no borders.
In Spain, the most recent reports point to improvements in the eradication of energy poverty in 2019, however, 17% of the Spanish population continues to spend disproportionately on energy and 8% find it difficult to keep their home at the right temperature.
Neighbors usually share parsley, a pinch of salt, a packet of rice or a package of milk in order to respond to last-minute needs, because all the supermarkets in the area have already closed. Now, sharing energy?
Yes, it is true. So is the nature of a good neighborhood in Zaragoza, Spain. This is where the Solar District was born, a pilot project by EDP, developed in partnership with EDP España and ECODES (a Spanish NGO working in the field of energy efficiency), in conjunction with the Zaragoza City Council. From this partnership, the project was born to develop the first solar self-consumption collective facility in Spain, which will promote the shared use of renewable energy and solidarity, and which will then be replicated in other Spanish cities.
The first Solar District will serve its residents and local companies with cheaper and renewable energy through an innovative concept of distributed energy generation, with a photo voltaic installation on the roof of a municipal building. This installation will have about 300 panels with an installed power of 100 KWp, sufficient to produce 150.000 kWh per year, which will allow for a reduction of 40,000 kg of CO2 emissions during that period. This will be the same as saying that the impact of air quality in this Solar District will be similar to that generated by 3,000 new trees.
With an investment of 200,000 euros, the installation of this service will begin in the summer of 2021, and the panels are expected to be in full operation by next autumn. Neighbours can enjoy this shared energy without having to do any type of investment or any installation in their homes, provided they are less than 500 meters away from the municipal building where the boards will be installed. The service is available to both EDP customers, and customers of other companies by hiring a service with a monthly fee, more advantageous than having to make the initial investment.
Participation in this Solar District allows for a 30% saving in the electricity bill for about 150 to 200 homes and small businesses. Of these beneficiary families, 10% will be vulnerable families that will be exempt from paying their monthly fee.
"In addition to this business model, sustainable and more advantageous to the customer, we also have a solidarity focus on this action. The City Hall of Zaragoza identifies families in need in the area, and these families will be able to enjoy solar energy free of cost. Fundación EDP España was also brought into the project, to once again work on the energy efficiency of these same customers, "explains Vanda Martins, general director of Fundación EDP España. In other words, Fundación EDP España has added its Solidarity Energy program to this pilot experience, which will also allow for technical audits, energy certificates, technical inspections or replacement of basic equipment, such as LEDs, radiators or boilers, in homes benefiting from the Solar District's energy A "Solar Neighborhood Office" will also be established to develop various initiatives to raise awareness, education and environmental and energy advice, which will be open to all residents.
"It's a win-win logic. On the one hand, vulnerable customers have free solar energy and, on the other, have energy efficiency measures to reduce their bill overnight, when there is no production of solar energy", continues Vanda Martins. Here, the focus is not only to help, but also to raise awareness about changing energy consumption habits.
Solidary Energy: in the light of efficiency and sustainability
The Solar District is just one of the most recent projects that Fundación EDP España has associated with, but there are others that need to be highlighted in the social area. In 2015, two major social responsibility programs were launched, which have, since their inception, a focus on energy efficiency and renewable energies. Let's start with the aforementioned Solidarity Energy, a project in collaboration with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), such as Caritas and the Red Cross, in this specific case, and that seeks to promote energy efficiency and sustainability through various initiatives, with the involvement of the different EDP's business areas and voluntary collaborators.
Its main objective is to increase the security, well-being and energy efficiency of the most vulnerable families identified by Caritas and the Red Cross. "Then, Fundación EDP, in synergy with the EDP Volunteer Program and volunteer employees, provides services to customers, makes an energy audit in the homes of these families. Based on this audit a report is prepared, stating how to act in each of these homes, for better energy efficiency, better security and also better comfort. If you need to replace lamps or appliances with more efficient ones, make a review of the electrical framework, among other actions, "explains Vanda Martins.
Alongside the implementation of this plan, which increases the lives of these most vulnerable families in Asturias, the Basque Country, Madrid and other important areas for EDP, there is also energy education on energy efficiency awareness. "In this sense, we train families and the NGOs themselves, explaining them how to change consumption habits, behaviors and we advise on other saving measures. Without this, you can't make the change to effective savings," Vanda Martins explains. For example: "With the Food Bank of Asturias, Fundación invested 17,000 euros and this NGO achieved a 60% reduction in the energy consumption bill. These savings allowed them to allocate investment in their main activity. On average, we achieved an 80% reduction in electricity consumption and 25% in gas, which is very positive, "concludes Vanda Martins.
"On average, we achieved a reduction in electricity consumption of 80% and 25% in gas, which is very positive"
Vanda Martins, General Director of Fundación EDP España
Since 2015, "this initiative has supported more than 330 families and 69 institutions, to which it has allocated a total of about 780.500 euros, which has joined the voluntary force of 130 EDP employees, thus benefiting more than 70,000 people", says Vanda Martins from Fundación EDP España.
Already in 2021, Fundación EDP [Spain] signed a protocol with Cáritas Spain and EDP Comercial Spain, within the Solidary Energy frame.
Caritas contracted EDP Comercial's solar installation, in service mode (monthly instalments), benefiting from the savings provided. These savings are always higher than the bills they pay, so there is always a net saving from the start. In addition, Fundación EDP [Spain] assumes the first 12 bills.
Basically, it is to contribute on improving the quality of life of the most vulnerable inhabitants of areas where EDP develops its activity, by supporting sustainable projects that contribute to improving the environment, reducing inequalities and moving towards a more equitable, socially responsible society.
Educate towards energy, with social responsibility
At the same time, in order to promote energy efficiency and access to energy, Fundación EDP has been supporting several initiatives through EDP Solidária. "This is a program that aims to contribute to the improvement of people's quality of life, especially in regions where EDP develops its intervention, supporting projects promoted by non-profit organizations," explains Vanda Martins.
Currently, there are three major areas of action for EDP Solidária: Care for the elderly, fight against depopulation and rural development, and access to energy and promotion of energy efficiency. NGOs that apply for support must present sustainable projects, in which energy efficiency enables considerable savings, allowing for the allocation of this profit to their main mission and, at the same time, creating jobs and raising society's awareness on saving.
Some of the projects in this context, which help to fight energy insecurity and promote the improvement of the use of energy sources, are: "energy efficiency: An opportunity for the employment of young people in a situation of vulnerability", from Fundación Tomillo (Madrid community), "Revamping and energy efficiency for the homeless center of Aize Onak", from the Centro Lagun Artean (Bascque Country) or "Promoting green and social employment in order to fight energy poverty", from Fundación ECODES.
For one year, the projects chosen are followed up on their execution by EDP Spain and Renewable Energie's volunteer teams, who end up being the interlocutors for Fundación EDP.
Since 2015, EDP Solidária has supported more than 120 projects in Spain, to which it has allocated a total of more than 3 million euros, which have benefited more than 200,000 people.
Also in October 2020, for example, Fundación EDP launched EDP Solidária Covid-19 to face the serious social and economic crisis generated by the pandemic. Temporarily, the focus of the EDP Solidária program focuses on responding to consequences of the crisis created by this pandemic context, with an increase in the overall amount of support of EUR 800 000.