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Smart living and energy poverty mitigation in social housing of Alba Iulia Municipality
City/Region : Alba Iulia Municipality , Romania

Social Green is an Interreg Europe project, focusing on improving policy instruments which address energy efficiency at the level of social housing using new technologies. Smart living and energy poverty mitigation in social housing in Alba Iulia is an innitiative that was locally implemented in social housing which consisted in the employment of new and modern energy solutions at the level of 10 social houses. Due to the success of the succes of the innitiative, a second phase was approved by Interreg Europe, and the pilot project will continue through employing  also solar pannels to the social houses.

Agendas addressed
DecarbonisationClimate changeHousing
Social inclusion and integration
Pathways followed
  • Involve citizens through participatory implementation
  • Encourage local private and civic engagement
  • Promote social innovation supporting inclusion
  • Pursue a shift towards a circular economy
  • Wisely select and apply smart technologies
  • Guarantee equal access to information & digital services
  • Prepare policies for socio-cultural changes due to innovation
Context

- 74000 inhabitants, member of Covenant of Mayors stating with 2010: https://www.apulum.ro/images/uploads/fisiere/PAEDC_Alba_Iulia_FINAL.pdf

-  Green City accord commitment: https://ec.europa.eu/environment/green-city-accord_en

- First city of Romania implementing the pilot project Alba Iulia Smart City - more than 100 smart solutions implemented

- First city in Romania to sign a contract with the World Bank for the local strategy development

-The only Romanian city included in the Siemens study Smart Cities Research, together with Aberdeen (UK), Brussels (Belgium), Istanbul (Turkey) and London (UK): https://www.apulum.ro/images/uploads/fisiere/ALBA_Complete.pdf

-A performing city in attracting EU funds in the period 2003-2013.

The project together innitative such as "7 public buildings equipped with renewable energy solutions - fotovoltaic pannels", "the first cogeneration solution under implementation in the Olympic swimming pool" 200 apartmenrs thermoinsulated through EU funds etc,  directly contributed to achieve the goals of the above strategies.

In Action

Social Housing in Romania serves in general the needs of vulnerable groups from the communities. Social housing is built, owned by the public sector, and usually managed in partnership with the tenants associations. In Alba Iulia, the social housing sector is relatively new and in some of the newer buildings several new green solutions are already included, but further greening measures can be taken. There are specifically 2 types of social housing in the town: Social housing for vulnerable groups and social housing for young people (generally speaking) provided by the National Agency for Housing. 

Following the SOCIAL GREEN inter-regional project meetings Alba Iulia Municipality identified a series of good practice examples in the area of energy efficiency and building retrofitting along with smart metering systems deployed. The relevant examples observed by Alba Iulia Municipality project team were analysed during the meeting in Estonia while further discussions were initiated with the Tartu Energy Agency and their stakeholders in order to better understand the measures presented as well as their replicability at the level of social housing in Alba Iulia and their potential to influence the policy instrument ROP Axis 3 and Axis 9.

The project consisted in:

Installing the smart-metering monitoring system (sensors, smart-metering devices, smart indoor appliances, smart boards, online web-tools etc.) at the level of the targeted social housing apartments with the consent of the tenants which volunteer for the proposed PA. The systems was installed on 10 apartments in a building of social housing flats managed by the municipality (acquiring the same tools and smart monitoring devices for each of the 10 apartments, in order to have a comprehensive PA with at least 10 different scenarios). The whole system of data acquiring and sending for the PA implementation will be monitored by an office of the municipality using the adequate software and up-to-date solutions in the field of smart metering and communication tools. The owners of the apartments were directly involved in the monitoring/testing process as well as in providing relevant feedback and adopting a proactive attitude towards energy consumption. 

The viecemayor of the city declared that this pilot project showeed commitment of the municipality to further reduce energy consumption at the level of social houses, and it will be used to attract also other relevant funding for this objective. 

 

Results

Reducing the energy consumption compared to the innitial consumption before the solution was adopted.

Around 40 persons were invloved in the participatory process and benefited freely from the new technologies and acquired new competences 

Lower energy bills for the apaartment owners

Increased esteem of the tenants living in the social flats

Behavioral change in relation to energy usage

Alba Iulia the first city in the country to have implemented this innovative solution at the level of social housing

Energy poverty addressed in Alba Iulia for the first time, using novel technologies

The project was listed by the Romanian Ministry of EU funding and Investments as example of good practice: https://mfe.gov.ro/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/93be174a1e468fd4c02b4895c217a713.pdf 

The success led to the approval of a second pilot in Alba Iulia which envisages the use of solar pannels and renewable energies for further reduction of energy poverty at level of social housing

 

Impact

The project results were presented to the Managing Authority of the most important Regional Operational Program dedicated to public investments, to be consider as a starting point for establishing the new guidelines for 2021-2027 in the area of energy efficiency of buildings. 

After 12 months of system monitoring and periodic information provided to participants, we obtained a reduction of 11% for electricity consumption, 7% of energy for heating and 13% for energy of hot water (11% hot water quantity), which are exceeding our expectations, because due to Covid 19 restrictions, occupancy rate was higher than in previous years (almost constant). This is a proof of importance of providing access to consumption data using smart home monitoring systems and to general information regarding simple methods for minimizing energy and utilities consumption and cost, in order to obtain a positive change in consumer’s consumption behaviour, especially in case of tenants of social apartments. On social aspects, the high participation and usage rate (67%), together with positive feedback regarding system importance and ease of use, creates an important start point for larger scale developments. The results of the pilot project are encouraging, demonstrating the positive effects of information and monitoring on user behaviour and energy consumption. In addition, an important result of the pilot project is represented by the installed smart home system, an investment of about 1000 EUR / apartment, which will remain in the participating social apartments even after the closure of the project. In this way, the tenants will still be able to use the smart system, an investment that many of them could not afford.

 

Challenges and lessons learned

Challenges: Convincing the tenants to take parts of this project was more challenging than estimated. They had the feeling that once this equipment would be installed they would be "watched by Big Brother" all the time and potentially punished by the municipality or even evicted from the apartmenrs for potential no compliance to the rules. However due to good communication of the project team, the tenants became interested and willing to cooperate and support the implementation of the project.

Lessons: Energy efficiency should especially address vulnerable groups since that is where the energy poverty come from.

RP9_10_Pilot Action_Reports
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