Milieukontakt Albania together with 8 Mediterranean partners in frame of the EmpowerMed project “Empowering women to act against energy poverty in the Mediterranean” (Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Program) are focused on energy poverty and women’s empowerment. In the Mediterranean countries, coastal areas face a number of challenges related to energy poverty, naturally related to heating and cooling in dwellings, as buildings are rarely isolated, often without a heating system or inefficient.

Energy poverty is a situation in which a family cannot access home energy services at such a level that it can meet social and material needs.

In European countries, energy poverty refers to the situation where individuals are not able to provide the necessary energy at home at an affordable price. But in Albania this concept does not yet exist. For years the Energy Sector Law defines the client in need but there is still a lack of secondary legislation on the criteria and procedure for obtaining the status of the client in need and how to treat them.

The project aims to implement practical measures in the pilot area, Vlora Municipality, to address energy poverty, such as community access, households visits, special approaches, small investment support and health workshops. Milieukontakt has compiled an initial report based on the review of documentation, meetings with local institutions and various agencies operating in Vlora, Civil Society Organizations and interviews with area residents.

The focus and priority throughout the project will be rural areas and especially the most vulnerable groups such as pensioners, single mothers households, the Roma and Egyptian community as well as women in general. The Novosela and Shushicë Administrative Unit in Vlora Municipality are the one with Roma and Egyptian population and much lower employment rate (Novosela with 26.2% and Shushica with 30.9%), thus being more exposed to energy poverty and where there are problems with social supports and less attention from the municipality. This choice comes from studying and analyzing all the socio-economic conditions of the inhabitants, the difficulties of the Roma community, which have the highest national percentage of settlement in this area, and the access they are offered by infrastructure and health. Less than 1% of families benefit from social support and 27% are from the Roma community, while this community accounts for about 2% of this administrative unit.

From the meetings with the residents of AU Novosela, we learn that they do not receive the energy bill with basic data on expenditures, consumption in kWh and related penalties, but only a notification from the tax agent with the relevant amount. This makes it difficult for them to judge the cost, use of different equipment, and the measures they can take to reduce their consumption.

While visiting the Novosela health center, we talked to a Roma lady who had 6 children and was living with only 8000 lekë (65eur) from social support. The husband was unemployed and struggled to earn a living through informal jobs. Their dwellings were in very poor conditions, the ceiling was dripping, aluminum windows glazed, high humidity and lack of thermal insulation. The wood stoves in the winter and the gas in the summer were used for cooking. There was no boiler to heat the shower.. In recent months, this family has reconnecting electricity, because they have been debtors for years and at the same time paying off the interest together with monthly consumption. The last invoice was 2,300 ALL, while the debit was 1,800 ALL, with a total of 4100 ALL. With a simple calculation over 50% of the social support benefiting the lady goes for the electricity bill.

Milieukontakt to reach families in need will communicate intensively with health centers and other local stakeholders that may support the campaign for inclusion of families affected by energy poverty or that may provide any other support for the implementation of the EmpowerMed project.

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