Focus

Low Income Households

Save energy and protect the environment

228625_Checker2Energy saving bulbs for people
who receive social benefits

There are more than 8 million people who receive social benefits in Germany. In many cases, there is little or no knowledge about energy and water saving and little motivation to do so. Only few people have the means to buy energy saving equipment (energy saving bulbs, A+++ refrigerators, …). On the other hand energy prices rise steadily, but the amount for electricity included in social welfare does not rise accordingly.

The project is maintained by German Caritas Association on national level with German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature and German Federal Association of Energy and Climate Protection Agencies (eaD) as strong partners. Betweeen 2008 and 2013 there were more than 100.000 energy savings checks which saved an ammount of 200.000 t of carbon dioxide.

In 2012, the Energy Savings Check was awarded the Sustainable Energy Europe Award in the Consumer category. The jury called it an "excellent example” of energy efficiency and sustainability. In the meantime, EU projects have benefited from the experiences in Germany. Ever since the German Caritas Association presented the programme on the European Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion in Brussels, interest has been steadily growing - even Russia and Japan have sent enquiries.

The initiative of the German Caritas Association and the Federal Association of Energy and Climate Protection Agencies (eaD) is supported by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety in the framework of the National Climate Initiative.

What does the project do?

The energy savings check helps low income households to learn how to reduce their energy consumption and thus relieve their tight budgets. Each participating household receives a complete measuring of all energy and water consuming devices as well as a detailed report. They also receive hardware (energy saving bulbs, watersaving shower heads, etc.) due to the results of the individual report and worth up to € 70.

Long-term unemployed people are qualified into energy- and water-saving consultants, going through a specially designed training programme. The consultants also experience personal skills development, eg. communications and teamwork and are integrated into PR-activities presenting the project and informing the target group

What are the role and the tasks of the local projects

  • Finding, selecting and preparing the participants (consultants): more than 3,000 were trained since 2008 in more than 120 cities
  • Care for and support of participants: support their personal development integrate them into regular jobs on the labour market
  • Organisition of trainings: communications, computer, personal skills development
  • Building-up of local networks: community, job centres, social welfare agencies, companies, environmental actors, clubs, churches, etc
  • Organise financial backup through local networks
  • Plan visits to households, organise supply of energy and water saving devices
  • Realize public relations activities with the media
  • Develop a medium- and long-term perspective for each project – financially as well as in term of local and regional acceptance

Success factors

  • Caritas as a welfare organisation is independent and trustable. >> energy-savings check inside people’s house is regarded as help and not as control.
  • The energy checking experts once were part of the target group >> consultancy “at eye level”    
  • Win-win-situation – households local community + environment profit >> the municipality is more likely to support the project.
  • New structures of cooperation: >> social services (such as job centres, social departments, welfare organisations) cooperate with environmental institutions (city energy department, energy agencies, energy supply companies, …).
  • Free of charge installation of high value energy and/or water saving devices as well as information on "what you can do“ directly IN the household.
  • The “Energy Savings Check” is regarded a socialas well as an ecological offer >>  priority is given to a combination of saving money + protecting the environment.

Official Website of Caritas Energy-Savings Check (German)