First founded in November 2009, the VERBUND Caritas Electric Assistance Fund was presented with the SozialMarie Award on account of its uniqueness, its role model function and its meeting of social targets, coupled with climate protection.
During the course of a three-step selection process, a jury of experts identified the 15 best social innovations in Austria and Hungary from a total of 206 submitted projects. In the first five months of its existence, the VERBUND Electric Assistance Fund has already been able to help 200 households throughout Austria: Alongside "fast-aid" vouchers for energy-saving bulbs, multipoint connectors and window insulation, the households were visited by professional energy advisors, who ascertained concrete saving and improvement measures.
Electricity guzzlers in 64 households were subsequently replaced by energy-saving new appliances of highest level of efficiency (above all, refrigerators from Bosch, Siemens and Neff). And 120 households – irrespective of their electricity suppliers – received bridge financing amounting to an average of 100 Euro for their electricity bills. Caritas and VERBUND are working on the assumption that 400 to 500 households can be helped each year; the first annual balance sheet will be compiled in December. VERBUND is annually feeding the fund with one symbolic Euro for each of its approx. 240,000 customers. The 33 Caritas social advisory centres throughout Austria process the electricity aid and serve as a point of contact for the households.
Some 492,000 people live in acute poverty in Austria. In total, around one million people are poor or at risk of slipping into poverty. In proportion to income, poorer households spend a greater part of their income on energy than people with a higher income. The reason for this is, on the one hand, the inefficiency of the homes and, on the other, a higher energy consumption due to greater need. A person affected by illness or unemployment spends more time at home than one who is employed. A higher consumption on account of a lack of awareness also plays a role.