Full text: The role of energy providers in tackling energy poverty (214)

12 4.2. Wiener Energieunterstützung Wiener Energieunterstützung is a programme by the City of Vienna to support vulnerable inhabitants of Vienna in accessing adequate energy. It is mainly administrated by the Magistrate for Health and Social Affairs (MA 40), but also includes a network of NGOs supporting and consulting vulnerable households, and the Ombudsteam at Wien Energie. The programme is funded by the Magistrate 20 (MA 20) for energy planning and energy efficiency. It sponsors the energy audits and pays for the measures recommended as a result of the audits, such as replacing broken windows. The funding also covers expensive major installations, such as district heating, which can cost up to €3000. According to the interviewees, a ‘Heizkostenzuschuss’ (heating allowance) of around €100 used to be paid out annually to every recipient of certain social benefit programmes. Now, the support is much more targeted and due to the infrastructural changes also has more long term benefits, as argued by several interviewees. One key aspect of the Wiener Energieunterstützung is the close and formalised cooperation between different institutions. The next paragraph will give an overview of how the different institutions cooperate. The subsequent paragraphs will introduce each institution in more detail. Parts of the Wiener Energieunterstützung are located within the framework of Hilfe in besonderen Lebenslagen (Assistance in exceptional circumstances in life) where recipients of social welfare (Mindestsicherung) can apply for one-off financial aid in exceptional circumstances. When it becomes clear that energy access or energy bills are part of the problem, social workers at the MA 40 will contact Wien Energie (if the client is a customer there) in order to discuss further options, such as instalments or deferral of payment. With the agreement of the client, the Ombudsteam at Wien Energie can provide more insights into the bill and help to gain an overview of what is due. When energy bills seem exceptionally high in relation to the size of accommodation or household, the social workers often recommend an energy audit. With the agreement of the client, they contact the Umweltberatung who conduct the audit. The consultants from Umweltberatung can also get information about the energy bills from Wien Energie to gauge the extent of the problem. The results of their audits and recommendations are passed back to the MA 40 who implements the measures, such as repairing windows, installing district heating or replacing appliances. These audits are paid for by the MA 20. In order to receive Hilfe in besonderen Lebenslagen and financial support in implementing measures recommended by the energy audit, clients need to receive social welfare benefits (Mindestsicherung) or have an income that does not exceed the minimum standard by a lot. The Caritas (like other NGOs in Vienna) also advises clients in difficult financial situations. Similarly to the social workers at the MA 40, social workers at the Caritas contact the Ombudsteam at Wien Energie to negotiate deferrals or instalments for their clients or they refer their clients to the MA40 to get further assistance, such as Hilfe in besonderen Lebenslagen. All organisations that are involved with the Wiener Energieunterstützung are in constant contact and once a year there is an exchange and networking meeting for the whole team. This helps the social workers to understand newest developments in billing and the energy market.

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