VERBUND Sponsored Caritas Electric Assistance Catches On


The "VERBUND Sponsored Caritas Electric Assistance Fund", recipient of the Sozialmarie award, has already been able to help 240 financially weak households in Austria in its first six months of existence.

The aid was most frequently claimed by households from Vienna, Upper Austria and Lower Austria.

Founded in November 2009, the "VERBUND Sponsored Caritas Electric Assistance Fund" helps destitute people from all federal provinces to escape the energy trap: above-average energy consumption for a below-average income. In its first six months of existence, the "VERBUND Sponsored Caritas Electric Fund" has already been able to assist 240 financially weak households and therewith help some 720 people in Austria. Two thirds of the households are in Vienna, 20 percent come from Upper Austria and 16 percent come from Lower Austria. The quota in the remaining federal provinces lay at between two and nine percent.

The Fund, which VERBUND boosts with 250,000 Euro annually, provides assistance by means of individual energy consultations in the households, by exchanging energy guzzling electrical appliances for energy efficient ones, as well as through bridge financing for electricity bills. The aid is offered to all Austrian households via the 33 Caritas social counselling centres and is offered irrespective of the electricity supplier.

With active support from Bosch, Siemens and Neff, 62 households have received new and efficient electrical appliances at no charge. In most cases, power-guzzling refrigerators have been replaced. For 210 households, payment of the electricity bill has been eased or payments by instalment made possible, respectively, by means of a bridge financing in the amount of 100 Euro. A prerequisite for the aid is a professional energy consultation in the households in order to sink the long-term energy consumption through concrete measures. All 240 households received a "fast aid energy package" with Philips energy saving light bulbs and self-adhesive sealing strips for windows and doors.

The average household income for the person receiving support lay at 830 Euro. Only 16 percent of those being supported are employed, 25 percent are retired, a further 25 percent are unemployed, and 17 percent are recipients of social welfare.
57 percent of the supported households are accommodated in apartments or houses in need of renovation, 25 percent are in renovated buildings, the rest are in partially renovated or new buildings. 

"We want to annually come to the aid of between 400 and 500 needy households in Austria and help them to sustainably lower their energy costs. At the same time we want to therewith make a contribution to climate protection as well, the likes of which not everyone is able to afford," stressed VERBUND CEO Wolfgang Anzengruber. "However, we don’t just want to do something ourselves but rather to also motivate other companies, particularly energy companies, to subscribe to the idea and to expand the aid. The Fund is open to all those who wish to help," stresses Anzengruber.

"Saving energy is necessary and important for everyone, for rich and poor. However, it is also an existential issue for the poor," says Caritas President Franz Küberl with conviction. This is because: "People at risk of poverty are caught up in a vicious circle when it comes to energy consumption: They usually don’t have the money for good energy saving appliances. They often live in apartments with poorly insulated windows, doors and outer walls. They lack access to information as to how to even save energy. And if the individuals concerned are unable to pay the bills, reminder fees etc. are then lumped on top. All of this serves to increase the price of energy costs for people who already lack the money for the most essential items," says Caritas President Franz Küberl.