Increasing the capacity of local authorities to fight energy poverty and promote clean air policies in local communities

The Energy Agency of Plovdiv is fighting energy poverty and air pollution through a network of energy advisors. 

Increasing the capacity of local authorities to fight energy poverty and promote clean air policies in local communities

The Energy Agency of Plovdiv (EAP) has been supporting the critical area of energy poverty and air pollution for over a decade.

Dedicated to the topic, EAP’s InventAir Project investigated how low-income households, which cannot afford to change old, inefficient heating equipment or replace poor-quality heating fuels,  become a primary cause for a dramatic seasonal increase in air pollution in their communities. A major obstacle to estimating the environmental, climate and health impact of energy poverty on climate change and associated air pollution is the lack of precise data on the quantities and quality of the fuels used by the households. To overcome this barrier, EAP developed a methodological framework for making an inventory of energy poverty – identifying, segmenting and assigning specific actions to each segment within energy-poor households.

EAP has prepared a “woodstove changeout” concept for the capital city of Sofia (Bulgaria) that envisages a comprehensive replacement of old heating equipment and installations in single- and multi-family residential buildings. The interventions will take place in Sofia by 2023 and replace the old heating stoves of over 10,000 energy-poor households with new heating equipment using electricity, natural gas or biomass. The interventions will slash an estimated 300 tons of pollutants per year and play a vital role in the overall reduction of pollutants in Sofia.

​In addition, within its IDEA Project work, EAP focused on improving the capacity of public institutions to engage in campaigns and actions towards alleviating energy poverty. The project has developed a platform with 15 innovative ICT educational features to address both the technical and social sides of the problem and also highlight the entrepreneurship possibilities in the area of providing energy advice. The platform supports unemployed people in identifying energy advising as an opportunity for them to find meaningful employment. The IDEA platform also serves as an international network of energy advisors active in energy-poor households that promotes personalised energy advising as to the best way to disseminate information and increase the knowledge level. So far, over 30 experts have been involved in the project, and a national debate has started on the pathways to alleviating energy poverty in Bulgaria.

Over the long term, EAP aims to assist in shaping local, national and EU policies and actions for tackling energy poverty and air pollution. It will do this by raising public awareness of the link between inefficient heating practices among energy-poor households and the rapid rise in air pollution in their communities.