When customers can no longer obtain an energy supply contract from their commercial supplier because of payment difficulties, they can come straight to us. As the social supplier, we offer a broad monitoring and support service and try to ensure that these customers become and remain debt-free. The goal is that they will ultimately be able to switch back to a commercial supplier.
We are going further, however, and taking action to drive down energy poverty. With our expertise, and with a large group of partners, we can make a contribution in this area. We are also targeting energy efficiency for more vulnerable target groups, by promoting energy-conscious behaviour and encouraging energy-saving investments.
Armed with a number of targeted tools and measures, we are fighting to reduce energy poverty.
Due to Coronavirus, we replaced the annual info sessions for OCMWs (public social welfare centres), usually held at six locations in Flanders, with a single online webinar from the Fluvius studio at Melle. Under the appropriate title ‘At a distance, but together more than ever for a warm society!’, the chairs of the Local Advisory Committees of the 300 Flemish OCMWs came together along with representatives of various partners and government bodies, including Samenlevingsopbouw, Interfederaal Steunpunt Armoedebestrijding, the Federal Energy Ombudsman Service, VEKA and VVSG. Held on 10 December 2020, the online meeting was attended by 480 participants.
Among the topics that came up were:
- Prepaid energy and smart meters (current status, conversion of remaining old-style budget meters to smart meters),
- the internal reorganisation of our Energy Supply service,
- getting access to our customer offices during the coronavirus period via a smooth appointment booking system,
- using an online app to speed up requests by discount voucher holders for energy-saving fridges.
During the meeting we also presented the new prepaid.fluvius.be website, which provides all the necessary practical information for both budget customers and OCMW employees.
Energy scans for disadvantaged households
In 2020, we carried out 21,455 energy scans, enabling vulnerable households to receive specific tips on how to reduce their energy bills. We also made a few small energy-saving interventions: LED bulbs, water-saving shower heads, draught excluders etc. In 2020, this customer group used 6,481 discount vouchers, each worth €150, for the purchase of a low-energy fridge or washing machine.
We have also redesigned the process for our role as social supplier. This led in early 2021 to the launch of Prepaid, our new service whereby customers pay for their energy in advance. What’s new is that customers can join Prepaid immediately as soon as their commercial supplier cancels their supply agreement. Previously, that was only possible if customers were already behind in their payments to Fluvius as well.
We now also install a smart meter straight away when customers are let go by their commercial supplier. This means we can activate the Prepaid function remotely as soon as the customer begins to fall behind in their payments to us. This substantially shortens the period in which debts can build up. In addition, there is no longer any visual difference between a normal smart meter and one that has been switched to Prepaid, which reduces the associated stigma.
Prepaid has also been given its own house style and a website tailored to the target group: prepaid.fluvius.be.
Digital meter with Prepaid
At the end of 2020, we had a total of 60,269 active meters with Prepaid, of which 25,028 (42%) were smart meters. Around 80% of all payments made for the activated meters with Prepaid are made online via mijndigitalebudgetmeter.be. Customers make payments from home and no longer need to travel to a customer office or charging point.