"No Blackout On Energy Poverty" - An Interview Of Pascale Taminiaux
Sia Partners had the opportunity to interview Pascale Taminiaux, who is in charge of the energy poverty projects at the King Baudouin Foundation. She spoke about the role of the Foundation regarding energy poverty and commented on the current situation in Belgium.
Sia Partners: What is your definition of Energy Poverty?
Pascale Taminiaux: "A state of energy poverty exists when people face difficulties to pay their energy bills, allocate a considerable share of their revenues to the energy bills or if the housing conditions make the energy bills difficultly bearable.
At the King Baudouin Foundation, the energy poverty is looked at via the housing aspects and the causes: lack of revenues, poor quality of the housing or behavior of the people regarding the energy usage."
The King Baudouin Foundation was founded in 1976. What are the mission and the values intended to be relayed?
"The Foundation is built on the motto "Act together for a better society". One of the main drivers is to act independently and pluralistically toward a more sustainable and innovating social justice, democracy, and respect of diversity. The Foundation interacts on multiple domains. Among those, the field of poverty and social justice started investigating the links related to poverty and housing: its energy costs."
What role do you intend to play in Belgium/Internationally?
"The King Baudouin Foundation is based in Brussels and intends to play a role impacting locally, regionally, federally and at the European level the decisions and the orientations. Energy poverty is a good example. Based on the EU directives related to climate change/greenhouse gas emissions, the Foundation made recommendations to address their social impacts at the federal level and is supporting 13 local projects to give a role to poor people in the fight against climate change (e.g. third-party investments, exchanges of knowledge and experiences between users/consumers to reduce energy bills, energy scans, etc.).
In order to be active in all domains of study, the Foundation has set up a toolbox of actions and better explains its typical interventions. The Foundation aims to create an impact and is not looking to redo what has already been done. The toolbox helps to define the right tools for the objectives: third-party financial support, advocacy toward policymakers, partnerships (e.g. facilitator in bringing social justice people together with environmental people - two worlds that never spoke together before!), civil mobilization, research, communication and philanthropy."
What is an example of your greatest accomplishments regarding energy poverty?
"Energy poverty was not a topic of interest 4 years ago. By financing research and bringing stakeholders together, the Foundation contributed to better understand the issue and put the item on the agenda. Besides, we have supported local organizations that have innovative projects. Today, it becomes a priority in the political agendas in order to avoid the negative socio-economic consequences."
How would you qualify the situation in Belgium?
"The situation is problematic and not improving. The phenomenon is based on revenues, costs and behaviors. Figures are not improving: costs are increasing, revenues not at the same pace and behaviors are not changing fast enough. Energy-poor households are also those having the most difficulties to access information and investments.
However, the decisions of the politicians are taking into consideration this new dimension and try to act proactively (e.g. the regional declarations of the federated entities).
But this is not yet good enough. We see a new issue emerging: water poverty."
What would be the next steps for Belgium?
"The next steps for us are clear:
- Increase the knowledge;
- Identify the proper solutions. The Foundation is therefore supporting multiple projects. A good example: the Foundation - together with Ashoka Belgium, a network of social entrepreneurs - is boosting 10 innovating projects through support and trainings. The projects are becoming autonomous (investment-ready, having robust business models and developing innovative ideas such as the lease of household electrical appliances). One of the keys for the solutions are to mix private investors and social associations - another strength of the Foundation.
The role of the Foundation is clearly to contribute to, reinforce and multiply initiatives and inspire decision-makers, investors and donors."
How do you finance your initiatives?
"The Foundation has three main sources of income. Each year we take 4% of the market value of our own capital and 3.7% of the market value of the named Funds that are active within the Foundation, and last but not least there is the important annual grant from the Belgian National Lottery, which amounts to more than EUR 11 million. As a result of all this, the King Baudouin Foundation was able to start 2014 with a working budget of EUR 37 million.
Every 5 years, the Foundation builds its strategic plan. The next one is for 2015-2019. In the poverty and social justice section, a new sub-domain will appear: housing and poverty with the aim to support and reinforce quality housing and develop the venture philanthropy model which is a support in the form of three-year consulting by external advisors."
How do you define the future projects?
"The Foundation observes the 'listening' principle. Since we are meeting so many people from so many horizons, the Foundation is capable to catalyze the information and develop strategic plans based on ideas, previous experiences, good practices, internal models, etc."
A final word?
"No blackout on energy poverty! Let's keep talking about the phenomenon and keep acting toward innovative solutions!"
Pascale Taminiaux is project manager in the Poverty and Social Justice department of the King Baudouin Foundation.
Pascale Taminiaux started her career 20 years ago at Arthur D. Little as consultant in environmental strategy for companies, with assignments on CSR and sustainable development. The Foundation became one of her clients. Before joining the Foundation, Pascale Taminiaux worked then for ETHIBEL, screening companies for sustainable footprint, granting labels to companies and helping banks to make the right choice when investing in ethical funds or capital.