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Helping low-income families in energy transition

In the coming decades, more than 2 million social housing units in the Netherlands will receive an upgrade in insulation and heating, in order to increase energy efficiency. To study the environmental, financial and social impact of this energy transition, a team of scientists from three universities will join forces with four social housing corporations. For this five-year research program, in which Leiden University is involved, NWO has made 500,000 euros available.

Unique combination of expertise

The BEL program (Behaviour, Energy transition, Low income) is based on a unique combination of academic and practical knowledge. With this combined expertise, the researchers hope to answer questions such as: How does the energy consumption of low-income families change during the energy transition, and what happens to the number of households now facing energy poverty?

To investigate this, the tenant's behavioral response to a specific adjustment in the home is examined. For example, a tenant may start using more energy because the cost of energy consumption is lower. In addition, it is important to investigate why the tenant shows a certain behavior. ‘There is already a lot of research into deriving emotions or sentiment from text, but not from extracting motives: why people exhibit a certain behavior,' says Suzan Verberne, researcher at the Leiden Institute of Advanced Computer Science (LIACS). ‘This is where my expertise can play a role. With text-mining methods, we can derive the underlying motives, for example from online discussions about energy-saving technologies and answers to open questions in surveys.’

Future perspective

In addition, the researchers at TU/e will build and apply a structural model to analyse and predict the effects of energy-saving improvements for low-income households. This will enable them to develop practical tools in the future to optimise energy efficiency packages and after-care in social housing.

BEL is a joint program of the Eindhoven University of Technology, Erasmus University Rotterdam and Leiden University, in which the academic knowledge is enriched with practical knowledge and data from four social housing corporations: Woonbedrijf from Eindhoven, Elan Wonen en Pré Wonen from Haarlem and Woonlinie from Zaltbommel.

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