Energy poverty is an issue in Romania being included in the Government’s national anti–poverty strategy. The strategy launched this year aims to address poverty and social exclusion that affects up to one third of the population, leaving large communities throughout the country with a lack of educational and economic opportunities, inadequate housing and, consequently, limited access to energy. Most of the initiatives that wanted to tackle fuel poverty and energy theft, up to now, have focused on communicating the legal consequences of energy theft, through infographics and video news in mass media, coupled with activities of detection, fines and energy recovery on the field. Results have been good, but, in many cases, the recurrence of this phenomenon seemed almost impossible to stop.
Inspired by the example of Brazil and their unique approach in tackling fuel poverty and energy theft, Enel Romania started a pilot project of community development in Ferentari, one of the poorest and most stigmatized neighborhoods in Bucharest. Ferentari is known for its inadequate housing, squalid surroundings, drug abuse and HIV/AIDS prevalence and most of all is an area with one of the highest levels of commercial losses in the country, it became the ideal testing ground for the shared value approach.
Enel Romania therefore teamed up with two local NGOs (Policy Center for Roma and Minorities (PCRM) and Carusel) and designed a community intervention program based on three pillars:
- Local context research and analysis aimed at identifying the reasons and barriers that affect the community living in that neighborhood and restrain people from using electricity in a safe, legitimate and efficient way
- Consultations - engage with the community to understand their problems
- Community development initiatives - contribute to solve some of the problems that are of common concern for both the community and Enel: energy efficiency, education, health, sanitation, etc.
The project, still at a preliminary stage, has already had its impacts for both the company and the community. The program enabled the company to identify and understand the problems of the community and to improve the internal processes according to the needs of vulnerable consumers. Thanks to this study, Enel Romania came to know that buildings in the area are not connected to the district’s heating and gas, that they are poorly insulated, use electricity for heating during winter and that, most of all, 70% of the people living in this area have very low incomes. This enabled the company to have a clearer picture of the area. Thanks to 15 weekly sessions at the local Mothers’ Club speaking about the supply and use of energy with the local community, the issues and their solutions gradually became clear. For example, customers find it very difficult to deal with a large utility like Enel, hence small changes in the company’s internal procedures can have a tremendous impact in the life of customers, particularly the ones who already have to face many challenges in their daily lives.
With the help of the Mothers Club and the newly appointed “energy mediator” coming directly from the community, fifty consumers voluntarily began approaching Enel asking to become legitimate customers. For others, the absence of property rights and debts make the process of normalization very difficult. However, with the help of colleagues in various distribution and supply functions, people have had their debt rescheduled and other creative ways to avoid the bureaucratic dead-ends have been found, generating a positive attitude in the area and attracting more people who want to give up on the uncertain and dangerous practice of energy theft.
Nonetheless, this is only the beginning; Enel Romania will soon receive the results and conclusions of the research carried out by PCRM and Carusel, based on which the company will design the interventions. At the same time, based on the findings of this pilot other initiatives are carried out to receive policy and regulatory recommendations that could lead to systematic solutions for the various problems vulnerable consumers face in Romania.
The prospects of helping a disadvantaged community improve its access to energy while reducing commercial losses seems a smart task. The knowledge and experience achieved is outstanding, but there is definitely more work that needs to be done, both internally and externally, to incorporate this experience and translate it into real changes in people’s lives leading to an evident decreasing of commercial losses.
VALUE FOR BUSINESS
Reduce network losses and increase number of customers in the neighborhood, engage with community and improve the business processes based on their feedback. Increase local awareness and customer loyalty.
VALUE FOR THE STAKEHOLDERS
Community development in education, health and social services and living standards, increase energy awareness and efficiency, therefore reduce fuel poverty.
Link to Video: Ferentari Lux – Journalistic project
Link to Video: Ferentari – Vidroi family Case
Link to Video: Ferentari and City of Energy http://eml.enel.com/EML/938/mp4_1280x720_h264_500kbps_153938.mp4
Project Card - Ferentari.pdf