International Hackton Challenge EMPOWER big succes

04 May 2021 - Published by Dominique Dhondt
On Saturday the 1st of May, students from all over the world joined the international hackathon Empower. The challenge? Design solutions fighting energy poverty for lower incomes in the energy transition. Inspired by keynote speakers Georgios Koukoufikis (EU researcher), Stefan Goemaere (Papillon project) and Robert Hemmen (WeSpark) the students – surprised the audience with 7 unique, creative and innovative ideas at the end of the day. And the winner is… Team Energetic Five, consisting of Belgium, Danish and Dutch students.

Energy poverty: a widespread problem

Energy poverty is a widespread problem in Europe. Between 50 and 125 million inhabitants cannot afford good thermal comfort indoors. “Seeing my parents not being able to heat their apartment and being covered with blankets, made me realize the importance of social innovation and energy poverty.” Georgios Koukoufikis is a Project Officer at the Joint Research of the European Commission. He works on social innovation and the social impacts of energy-related policy. Georgios is co-author of the report Social Innovations For The Energy Transition. In his keynote speech he reflected on various concepts and projects in relation to behavioural change and wellbeing.

Stop using energy wasting appliances

According to Stefan Goemaere (Papillon project) energy poverty is also about not being able to cool your home. “In Spain people die, because they can not pay for their electricity bills for the air conditioner in summer.” Stefan works in Belgium and discovered that one out of three people that live in poverty, have energy wasting appliances. In Flanders this is about 135.000 families. These families often do not have access to energy-efficient household appliances, and the majority of them have outdated appliances. This is not only bad for the climate, but also generates high energy and water bills and leads to energy poverty as a result. The Papillon project is replacing obsolete appliances with more modern energy-efficient appliances on the basis of leasing per month. This can reduce CO2 emissions per appliance in 10 years between 240kg and 870kg. And for € 7 a month, families can lease a triple A refrigerator that saves electricity, and fits within their budgets.


Knowledge is power

The key to saving energy is knowing how much you use. Robert Hemmen is CEO of WeSpark and they use a device to fight energy poverty. The EARN-E is a smart monitoring tool showing users how much energy they produce and consume in real time. The EARN-E creates awareness on energy consumption. During his keynote speech Robert explained more about this project and called upon students to help with the EARN-E pilot.

Creative and innovative solutions

Powered by the keynote speeches the students worked on their ideas and pitched them to the audience. These pitches have been recorded and will be published in the coming weeks. Olivier Rijcken made a visual summary of the pitches. This drawing illustrates the seven pitches of the proposed solutions of the seven international student teams:




And the winner is… The Energetic V

After each presentation, the public could vote for the pitches. The presentations were assessed on creativity, feasibility and the level of impact. The winner of the 7 teams is The Energetic V. Congratulations to: Ankush Venugopal, Bart van Woesik, Carolina Paes and Sander Paelinck. Watch the winning pitch below.


Empower 2.0

The hackathon is developed within the Empower 2.0 project. The project aims to demonstrate and accelerate the empowerment of citizens to become active energy citizens – and to create local energy communities via existing civil society structures – through development of new solutions (e.g. organisational) and adoption of new, emerging and existing solutions for energy ownership. This will lead to an increase of energy awareness and renewable energy production, and hence reduce the environmental footprint in the North Sea Region.