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

14 kind of conversation.”7 In her opinion, it also makes more sense from a business perspective, as a lawsuit might cost more in the end than deferring payment for a limited period of time. However, it needs to be noted that even when a solution for the financial situation can be found, it does not mean that a customer has unlimited access to an adequate amount of energy. When other circumstances are too challenging, it can mean that customers have to restrict their consumption of energy to an amount that reduces their quality of life, for example because they live in draughty or cold flats. “For some people the solution means that I do not have access to energy for 24 hours a day on 365 days a year.”8 In these cases there need to be more structural changes in order to solve the situation, for example finding a new flat or a higher income. Overall, the interviewee from Wien Energie praised the culture and outlook on vulnerable customers within the company. The awareness for this customer group exists with the leadership and in all departments. When new practices or strategies are developed, the needs of vulnerable customers are considered, for example those that might not have unlimited internet access. As all departments know about the services of the Ombudsteam, customers are forwarded to the Ombudsteam regularly. Furthermore, the social worker feels that she can freely express criticism about certain practices within the company. 4.2.2. Magistrate 40 (Health and Social Affairs) The MA 40 processes applications for Hilfe in besonderen Lebenslagen, a one-off financial assistance for Viennese citizens that find themselves in financial struggles. They usually need to be recipients of Mindestsicherung, the minimum standard of social welfare payments, or have a payment that is equal or slightly above to the rate of Mindestsicherung. Until 2013, the city paid a flat €100 to all recipients of social benefits once a year, with the aim of covering the additional cost of the yearly energy bill. Since 2013, the MA40 administrates the Wiener Energieunterstützung, which works with more individual measures and is part of Hilfe in besonderen Lebenslagen. When social workers process applications caused by high energy bills, they can contact the Ombudsteam at Wien Energie. If the client does not receive his or her energy from Wien Energie, the grid fees are still paid to Wiener Netze. Thus, the Ombudsteam can help at least with this part of the bill. The MA 40 helps regardless of the energy provider of the client. The Ombudsteam can provide a better overview about the outstanding bills and about a customer’s consumption patterns. When energy consumption seems unusually high for the number of people in the household or the size of the flat, social workers may recommend an energy audit. The details of an energy audit will be described in more detail in the paragraphs on the Umweltberatung. At the end of each auditing session, there is a list of recommendations for infrastructure improvements (e.g. repairing windows or installing district heating) and exchange of essential appliances (e.g. fridges). The MA 40 arranges the 7 Original quote in German: „Und man droht jetzt nicht mit Anwalt oder Mahnungen, sondern einfach das sind die Möglichkeiten in dieser Situation. Wie können wir die Energie zusichern. Und dann sagen sie, ich hab eigentlich gar nichts, was ich zahlen kann, und dann sage ich glauben Sie dass es dann so in der aktuellen Wohnung so weitergehen kann, und so geht das dann. Das ist eine ganz andere Art der Gesprächsführung 8 Original quote in German: „Die Lösung heißt dann schon für gewisse Menschen, die so ein geringes Einkommen haben, ich habe nicht an 365 Tagen für 24 Stunden die Energieversorgung.“


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