Energy poverty is a big deal in Romania – here’s how we’re helping
07 Nov 2016 by Andreea Ihos, UNDP Regional Programme Support Consultant
Around 42 percent of the Romanian population cannot pay their utility bills. 25 percent of the households are unable to keep their homes adequately warm.
Across the country, approximately 30% of the dwellings have leakages and damp walls which is quite alarming as it increases the chances that people will get sick.
You might think that Romania, being an EU country, would be able to provide access to all utilities for children in kindergartens and schools.
Yet if you go to a low income region of Romania you would be shocked to see children are learning in old buildings without insulation, with outdated windows where you can hear the wind screeching. In such schools, children have to keep their hats and jackets on to keep warm in winter.
Taking this into consideration, it is less shocking that the European Commission highlighted that 40% of Romanian teenagers of age 15 have difficulties reading, a percentage that places Romania at the bottom of the European Union with regards to education.
I have come face to face with several struggles through my work. Jiet Kindergarten and Kindergarten no. 3 in Petrosani are situated in a former mining region of Romania, in Hunedoara County. Once a wealthy industrial area, the population and the educational system are now facing budget cuts and poverty followign the closure of the mining industry. In these two kindergartens, among many others, I have seen children struggle to receive education due to lack of warmth. They have come to associate their early years of learning with struggle unlike their European peers who go through these years with joy and playfulness.
This is why UNDP and the Romanian government have been working together for the past six years to make buildings energy efficient.
So far, we have taken action in 71 kindergartens, schools and social houses working together with 6 municipalities from two of Romania's low-income regions.
I am proud to say that with the changes we have made have impacted almost 30,000 people's lives by offering them thermal comfort through the replacement of old windows, installment of central heating units or insulation of exterior walls.
The positive feedback that I received from teachers was comforting as they also appreciated the benefit for their children. Oana Fister, a teacher at Jiet school (Hunedoara County) told me:
"After the installation of the central heating system and performant windows, the school has changed completely. The teaching process has improved for both children and teachers. We can finally work in optimum conditions."
Looking back at all we’ve achieved, if I’ve learned one lesson, it’s this: If you want to make a global impact, work with local communities.
PS. E.ON Energy Globe Award Romania recently recognized our efforts, awarding us "Best Energy Saving Project" of 2016 in the Municipalities category. We are grateful for the honour. Thank you!