Olivier Desclée, Project Leader for the Rassembleurs d’Énergies initiative
Olivier Desclée is Senior Advisor Public Affairs at ENGIE’s Belgian subsidiary Electrabel. He tells us about his commitment to the social enterprise LivingStones as part of the Rassembleurs d’Énergies initiative.
What is the Electrabel involvement with Rassembleurs d’Énergies?
In 2011, we conducted an analysis of energy poverty in Belgium which is a real problem in our country, where half the housing stock is more than 50 years old. Rassembleurs d’Énergies arrived at precisely the right moment to help us take action on this issue. So Electrabel worked with the Rassembleurs d’Énergies S.A.S. solidarity investment fund to put together a shared €1 million investment program. LivingStones, a Brussels-based social housing cooperative, is the first company to benefit from it.
Could you tell us more about it?
With support from a number of social housing agencies in Brussels, LivingStones has been building and renovating social housing since 2005. These homes are then rented to financially vulnerable tenants. The cooperative owns four apartment buildings in Brussels offering 14 apartments with a total floor area of 1,600 square meters. High-quality housing is its commitment and founding principle. We are supporting them in converting and renovating a fifth building – a 900 square meter former office building – to create 13 high energy efficiency homes in a working class community very close to the city’s Grand Place. The work is due to be completed at the end of 2016. Electrabel and Rassembleurs d’Énergies together are investing €250,000 in this project.
Could you give us a brief insight into how you select projects?
We were very keen to avoid any suggestion or criticism of social recycling, and conduct detailed checks to establish the quality of candidates we select. Which is why LivingStones was selected only at the end of a long process. A call for projects was issued by the Fondation Roi Baudouin, which is a totally independent and pluralist organization equivalent to the Fondation de France. Many projects were submitted to us between May and September 2013, and we selected three of those. The judging panel set up by the Fondation Roi Baudouin came down in favor of LivingStones in December 2013, persuaded by the responsible nature of the project, its environmental impact and its financial stability.
Do you plan to extend this partnership with the Fondation Roi Baudouin?
In January this year, we launched a new call for projects in Flanders and Wallonia. Once again, the focus is on energy poverty and housing. The closing date for submissions was March 15, and the final selection decision is expected by September.