Spain receives 24% of all the refugees that arrive in Europe each year. Their transition to a new life is underpinned by government programmes and by the work of the Spanish Refugee Assistance Committee (CEAR). We approached CEAR to better understand the challenges these refugees face and explore how we could support this important work.
When CEAR received a grant from a utilities company to invest in energy conservation in refugee housing, it provided the ideal opportunity for us to work together. The energy audits we have carried out in some of CEAR’s refugee houses are helping to save energy, increase comfort for the occupants and reduce utility bills.
The reality of energy poverty
Spain’s latest energy study reveals that over 20% of households experience conditions associated with energy poverty. For 2.6 million citizens, more than 15% of their family income is spent on energy bills.
Refugees are especially vulnerable to poverty, including energy poverty. The Spanish government run programmes to support refugees through their transition. At some point this includes the move to independent living, when they become responsible for managing their own household budgets. The affordable housing provided for refugees often lacks energy efficient systems. Without these systems helping to combat heat gains or losses, energy consumption and bills remain high.
Targeting low-cost improvements
Three of the houses in CEAR’s programme - two in Antequera and one in Valencia – were audited for their energy efficiency. We analysed building conditions and energy consumption, audited the homes and spent time understanding the energy needs and habits of the families. As a result, we identified low-cost improvements to the energy performance of the houses, backed by a prioritisation plan for any equipment or building improvements. The way home energy systems are used can further reduce consumption and costs - without compromising comfort - knowledge we shared with the families and landlords.
Contributing to a bigger agenda
CEAR needed to make the most of its grant, spending their budget for maximum effect. Our work on the project not only helped them make better-informed decisions. It allowed them to spend 100% of the grant on actual improvements. Those improvements go some way towards the UN’s Strategic Development Goal 7 of ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy. The insights from this project can be a blueprint for CEAR as they look to improve the lives of other refugees making Spain their home.