In the city of Zagreb and the surrounding Zagreb County (Republic of Croatia), almost one-third of the elderly population are at risk of poverty.
Recent data show the situation is worsening: in 2020, 31% of those over 65 were exposed to poverty risk; by 2021, this figure increased to 32.4%. Often, these individuals fall into the category of ‘low-income, high energy bill’ households, in part because poor insulation means their homes are energetically inefficient.
The Green Energy Cooperative (ZEZ) believes that a dignified old age should also be energetically secure—that is, elderly people should be able to heat their homes and watch their favourite TV shows without worrying that they won’t be able to afford food.
Citizen donations power ‘Ease Their Troubles’ campaign
In autumn 2022, ZEZ launched ‘Ease Their Troubles’ (Umanjimo im brige), a donation campaign to help older citizens living in energy poverty save on their monthly bills. With the help of local organisations working with similar target groups, such as the Red Cross Initiative, ZEZ identified vulnerable citizens who would benefit from an Energy Savings Package (see Figure 1). Each package contains:
- Six LED bulbs
- Two six metre lengths of window and door seals
- One door whisk
- One six-metre reflective foil for radiators
- One extension cord with a switch
- Two water-saving aerators
Using this, one household can save up to 1,300 kwh of thermal energy and up to 370 kwh of electricity (equivalent to HRK 1 600 or €213.50) annually. While at the home, ZEZ energy advisors also provide free advice on how to use energy more efficiently and how to make additional savings at the household level.
To date, individual donations have raised €8,750—enough funds to cover 120 Energy Savings Packages (see Figure 1), which have now been distributed to energy-poor households. ZEZ aims to reach 250 households by the end of their pilot.
They also plan to bolster this micro-donation campaign by reaching out to the private sector to secure supplementary contributions from organisations’ corporate social responsibility (CSR) departments. This will be launched alongside the existing crowd funder.
Inspired by CEES partner Enercoop
The ‘Energie Solidaire’ fund launched by Enercoop, a French electric utility cooperative company, has been an insipiration for ZEZ. This is an endowment fund that collects donations in support of non-profit initiatives to fight against energy poverty, in partnership with the non-profit association Les Amis d’Enercoop. Enercoop encourages its clients and renewable energy producers to contribute to the fund. When establishing the ‘Ease Their Troubles’ campaign, ZEZ followed this French model, making some adjustments to better align it with the Croatian context.
The first phase of the donation campaign has been a huge success, and ZEZ hope to continue helping Zagreb’s energy vulnerable elderly population live warm, dignified lives as the project moves into the next phase.
 For households without dependent children (often single-person households), the proportion of those living in poverty risk rises again, up to 55.3%.