energy precariousness

Fighting fuel poverty? Students get involved...

Every winter, many families struggle to keep warm and pay their energy bills. Each one of us may one day be affected by this difficulty, reflecting structural problems such as poorly insulated housing, the inevitable rise in energy prices, or economic precariousness. 1 household out of 5 in Nord-Pas de Calais is in a situation of energy precariousness or very high vulnerability. To help these families, the Ecole des Mines de Douai has launched an initiative, EPED. Explanations.
Ahe Act of 12 July 2010 (Grenelle II Act) recognises fuel poverty as a difficulty in obtaining the energy supply necessary to meet basic needs due to the unsuitability of its resources or habitat conditions.
The growing rise in energy costs, combined with the economic crisis, is contributing to the fragility of part of the population, which is not always identified by social action. The consequences are far-reaching, both for households and for the community, which is seeing an increase in the demand for aid and a multiplication of schemes. In France, the awareness of energy-related precariousness, which has now been translated into law, dates back to the end of the 2000s.

In 2013, the regional network Précarité énergétique de la Dynamique Climat Nord-Pas de Calais estimates that one in five households will be in a situation of fuel poverty. In 2015, according to studies by the Regional Economic, Social and Environmental Council, 20 to 30% of the population of Nord-Pas de Calais would be in a situation of energy precariousness or very high energy vulnerability.
Analyses show that 70% of the dwellings in the Nord-Pas de Calais territory are energy-intensive (labelled DPE evaluated at E, F or G); and that energy accounts for 10 to 15% of the budget of precarious households, compared with a national average of 6% for all households. The areas of concentration of households suffering from fuel poverty correspond to urban areas where there are social housing units that are often poorly insulated, too old in relation to energy standards, or even unhealthy.
The consequences of the lack of heating, difficulties of displacement, shame and withdrawal into unhealthy spaces induce difficult situations in all areas: financial, health, social, security, health, environment... 
Numerous public and private initiatives are being deployed on the ground to improve the situation. On a local level, Mr. DEFRANCE, former director of the Douai School of Mines, then director of the Centre d'Etude et d'Action Sociale (CEAS) in Douai, launched an initiative called EPED (Etude pour la précarité énergétique dans le grand Douaisis) in 2011. An initiative that evolves year after year where students leave their context exclusively as engineers to invest the territory of social action in the field.

Understanding the real world

The students of the Douai School of Mines, trained on energy issues as part of their teaching of future first-year engineers in industrial ecology (Master's degree in Positive Energy House), visit vulnerable populations to inform them, diagnose the situation, and when possible, propose and install simple and inexpensive solutions to improve their energy situation on a case-by-case basis. This team passes on the eco-gestures to those who need them most. The training is carried out via a tutoring system; the tutor in this case is a teacher-researcher specialising in the field of energy. 
The purpose (and effect) of this field action is to create a link, and through a network effect, to create a potential favourable micro evolution at the local level. EDF's Regional Management supports this initiative and provides financial assistance to the project as well as training in eco-gestures to young engineers; the CEAS, SoliHa and Secours Catholique are involved, enabling the link between students and disadvantaged people. In addition, the local Castorama store provides at a reduced price the material necessary to reduce the latter's energy expenses. Finally, the Ecole des Mines de Douai acknowledges the work provided by the students in the context of a study project evaluation.
The project has already led to the installation of energy kits in a dozen underprivileged families in the region, and several educational stands run by students to teach eco-gestures have been organized with the Red Cross or the Restos du Coeur, enabling the populations concerned to imagine the energy and financial loss caused by a lack of knowledge of ecological practices.
In 2016, nearly 8 million people in France will be in a situation of fuel poverty, i.e. they will spend more than 10% of their income on energy.
To respond to this problem, it is important to make these households aware of eco-gestures that can help them reduce their energy bills. Therefore, the next step is the creation of a website to track the bills of the families we meet and raise awareness of eco-gestures.

The project group

A group of 6 students quickly formed following the presentation of the 2nd year students' old projects. Their motivation translated into a willingness to put their technical skills at the service of a subject with a strong social aspect, and to feel useful.
The project is supervised by Daniel Bougeard, teacher-researcher at the Ecole des Mines de Douai in the Industrial Energy Department.
The team: Charles Forot, Carole Lemonnier, Ivann Le François, Léo Cailliez, Esther Adjele and Théo Bainee
The students work with CEAS - Centres d'Etude et d'Action Sociale - meeting and listening places to encourage and promote collaboration and confrontation between local actors. In particular, the actors of the CEAS of Douai who commit their time to accompany the most disadvantaged in the search for viable housing and/or employment.
But also with the national organization SOLIHA, which is taking action against precarious housing throughout the country. Propagande et Action Contre les Taudis", the first French associative network, brings together more than 145 associations and organisations. Nine of its local centres are located in Nord-Pas-de-Calais.

This active voluntary participation in the field to improve the situation, complements and enriches two of the School's strong points: the training of high-level engineers at the cutting edge of innovation and technology, particularly in the world of energy; and the self-application of an extremely proactive policy of controlled energy consumption, for its own needs, and over the long term. The Douai Mines' commitment to the subject of energy transition is well known and recognized at the academic and professional level, in France and internationally.
Aith thanks to Charles Forot for the content elements.

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