4th Conference of the Observatoire of energy and water precarity: understand, measure and respond together
The 4th Observatory on Energy and Water Insecurity Forum was held in Paris on November 27. Nearly 200 delegates, including GDF SUEZ employees and partners, made the trip. The forum agenda included roundtable discussions and many superb opportunities to discuss initiatives implemented by the Group, public authorities, social organizations, social enterprises and students to combat energy insecurity.
“As a socially responsible energy supplier, GDF SUEZ engages at local level to make its contribution to the development of local people. But our commitment doesn’t stop at the customer’s door, or even at the customer’s meter. We know that some of them will - for many different reasons - be experiencing financial difficulties. We see it as essential that we help them to work with us on building economically viable solutions”.
That was the keynote that set the tone for the event. Opening the forum, GDF SUEZ Vice-Chairman and President Jean-François Cirelli reminded her audience of the full extent of the social evil that is energy insecurity (it affects between 50 and 125 million people in Europe), and the importance of working together to find solutions. Why? In order to understand, measure and act. These three considerations are what will guide the application of innovation and initiative to combat energy insecurity, and were also the central themes on which the roundtable sessions of experts and partners were focused throughout the day.
Because it is essential to gain a clear understanding of energy insecurity in order to grasp its extent and combat it, the first roundtable session brought together a sociologist and designer with experts from GDF SUEZ and the Fondation Agir Contre l’Exclusion. The central concerns of stakeholders can be summarized in a single fundamental question: how can we identify those households which fall victim to energy insecurity or are at risk of doing so?
“The aim of the Observatory is to understand the qualitative and quantitative factors behind this form of insecurity. Unfortunately, the statistical data we currently have are not always good enough for that purpose,” explains Didier Chérel, Secretary of the Observatoire National de la Précarité Energétique. “Hence the importance of putting in place representatives and contact points - via social organizations, for example - in targeted locations that are already struggling, so that they can help us to identify households with an energy insecurity problem,” adds Christophe Beslay, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Toulouse.
It is as a result of considerations like these that a number of schemes are now being deployed at local level to identify these vulnerable households: they include the SLIME (Service Local d’Intervention pour la Maîtrise de l’Énergie) local energy management intervention service, the EGAL (Energie Garantie au Locataire) tenants’ energy guarantee concept, and the Habiter Mieux program launched in 2010 by the Agence Nationale pour l’Amélioration de l’Habitat (national housing improvement agency) in partnership with GDF SUEZ to combat energy insecurity and promote employability for young people.
Another important discussion point: measuring energy insecurity. What indicators can be used to track the development of this trend and the initiatives introduced throughout Europe to combat it? For this roundtable session, CRIGEN (the GDF SUEZ Gas and New Energies Research and Innovation Center) was invited to present an assessment of energy insecurity hotspots in those countries where GDF SUEZ operates. “Our goal is to understand the context of each country so that we can become more efficient at offering effective solutions. It’s also possible to share and discuss the good practices developed by everyone involved,” says Nadjma Ahamada, Sociological Studies Coordinator at CRIGEN. With representatives from GDF SUEZ Group companies in Italy, Romania and Belgium, everyone was invited to talk about the action plans in place in each country:
- Partnerships with social organizations in Romania (Habitat for Humanity and SOS Children’s Village)
- Preventive initiatives in France, with programs such as ISIGAZ and Habiter Mieux
- Financial initiatives in Italy to help households make their homes more sustainable
- Innovation in Belgium, with the introduction of La Plateforme, the Belgian version of the GDF SUEZ Observatory on Energy and Water Insecurity
Understanding the problem is good, but taking action is even better. Better still, if we all act together. That’s why GDF SUEZ launched the Rassembleurs d’Energies initiative in 2011, bringing social entrepreneurs and local-level experts together through a series of partnerships. Its aim is to support entrepreneurship in the context of combating energy insecurity through initiatives built around subsidies, investment and technical support.
Hence the presence at the third roundtable session of three stakeholders from the social and solidarity economy, all of them key partners of the Group in this area:
- Chênelet, a construction company that builds energy-efficient eco-homes for the most underprivileged in society
- Les Toits de l’Espoir, which refurbishes derelict vacant homes to house people striving to get back into society and employment
- Habitat et Humanisme, with which GDF SUEZ signed a partnership agreement on the same day as the Forum: this organization combats energy insecurity and helps people in difficulty to find decent housing
Ec’Audit: the student project on sustainable housing that won the GDF SUEZ Foundation-Enactus Challenge Award
Ec’Audit may be a student project, but one that is “highly professional and accomplished”, in the words of one jury member. Initiated by students at the ENSE national energy, water and environmental engineering school in Grenoble, the project received the GDF SUEZ Foundation-Enactus Challenge Award last June.
Its principle is based on 2 key stages:
- Audit: the students conduct building energy surveys to identify the priority areas for thermal insulation upgrading
- Support: residents are then made aware of eco-friendly actions they can undertake to reduce their energy bills
Last year, 150 homes were audited in this way, with volunteer numbers increasing from 5 to 60 in just a few months. “We wanted to create a project that would be useful to society, have a long-term environmental impact and be economically viable”, explain Mathieu Bonvoisin, Coline Gazet and Guillaume Martin, the three students behind the project. “The Foundation award will raise our profile and boost our credibility. We hope to be able to extend our project beyond Grenoble and make it a permanent service”.
Maisons de Qualité competition awards
The GDF SUEZ Foundation has got together with the social housing organization Maisons de Qualité to launch a competition for architects, who are invited to submit innovative energy-saving home renovation solutions. Based on a precise scenario - an elderly person living alone in a rural area - the three winning groups of architects have designed innovative ways of boosting the energy performance of the building in ways consistent with the budget and mobility of the resident, and the need to maintain social links.
The award winners:
- Third Prize was awarded by Jean-François Battoue, Head of Sales for Home Services at GDF SUEZ Energie France, to Kevin Pion, David Quere and Damien Gaidier
- • Second Prize was awarded by Fédération Maisons de Qualité Director Yannick Allain to Adeline Maury, Laetitia Fronty and Jean-Julien Barillot
- First Prize was awarded by Catherine Guillon of the GDF SUEZ Foundation to Jean-Louis Umani and Jean-François Terpend
- • The Special Jury Prize was awarded by Plan Bâtiment Durable Chairman Philippe Pelletier to Jean-Louis Umani and Jean-François Terpend
percentage of French households affected by energy precarity