lake Zhenyuan

Local assistance to combat fuel poverty

Fuel poverty remains a major issue for around twelve million French people according to the Observatoire de la Précarité Energétique (ONPE – the fuel poverty monitoring center). A cause of discomfort and high energy costs or even hazard risks due to dilapidated or improperly used appliances, it is associated with insufficient insulation and more generally with ageing buildings falling well short of current standards in this field.

A complex administrative maze

The costs involved in obtaining effective insulation can make it impossible for some property owners to undertake the necessary renovation work. It nurtures a vicious circle in which high heating costs eat into the budget, therefore making it more difficult for residents to finance the necessary work. The situation is all the more worrying as fuel poverty often also entails greater heating-generated pollution, with housing accounting for approximately 12% of greenhouse gas emissions. However, public funds are available to assist low income households, whether in the form of subsidised energy prices or special financial packages. But the lack of integration between the different public bodies handling the renovation of housing, the differences in means testing, the many associations with different skills and objectives or the sheer complexity of the applications to be submitted to obtain aid can often reveal themselves as barriers for already weakened populations.

Tailored solutions with VoisinMalin

It’s therefore vital to help them navigate this administrative maze in order to find the help they need, to assist them with their research, to support them throughout the different formalities to be undertaken with public bodies but also to help them to be independent. Associations now exist for precisely this purpose. They have set themselves the task of assisting households suffering from fuel poverty by proposing practical and accessible solutions. VoisinMalin, supported by the Rexel Foundation, focuses its activities on disadvantaged districts, including the 200 most vulnerable sites identified by the Agence Nationale pour la Rénovation Urbaine (national agency for urban renovation). In the course of its work, the latter involves the association employees/residents, the energy suppliers and the social housing providers. As part of its local actions, it goes “door-to-door”, aiming to identify and assist households in difficulty. Based on contact and dialogue, this operating method favours the implementation of solutions tailored to each situation, including information and support when applying for public aid, direct intervention with energy suppliers when a specific problem arises, making people more aware of the simple steps to be taken and the provision of educational tools. So much listening, tips and small but useful steps in improving residents’ daily lives.

The Association Nationale des Compagnons Bâtisseurs is developing the concept of “assisted self-renovation”

Similarly, the Rexel Foundation is supporting the Association Nationale des Compagnons Bâtisseurs, which has been active for the last 50 years in disadvantaged areas, and which promotes initiatives based on mutual assistance. It aims at involving residents in the renovation of their homes through a supported self-renovation (SSR) project. In addition to these projects, the association organizes practical group classes, lends tools and issues advice to make the beneficiaries more independent when it comes to maintaining their homes. It also works to raise awareness about environmentally friendly measures aimed at reducing energy expenses and improving the comfort of people’s homes. To do so, it involves young people on civic service placements, who obtain training leading to a qualification at the end of their mission. The result is a number of win-win initiatives offering benefits for all stakeholders, the impacts of which are carefully measured. Ultimately, these associations enable fragile populations to benefit from public aid schemes, promoting mutual assistance between residents in the same area, while also teaching people useful skills and helping households suffering fuel poverty to become more independent. These are all objectives the Rexel Foundation associates itself with.