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Energy Poverty in Taiwan: Can You Imagine a House without Light?

For most of us, it is so common to turn on the lights when we enter the house at night, and when it is too dark to see clearly. Every night, warm yellow light flows from the windows of each house in the building, our imagination of home as a safe haven. We often say, "Leave a light on for the person who comes home last."


But do you know? Some homes remain in darkness at night.


In various corners of Taiwan, in order to save electricity, some families are reluctant to turn on the lights even though their homes are dark, or the light appliances are all broken. But, they cannot afford to hire electricians to replace the lights.


This leads to the elderly moving in the dark, risking injury or falls; children doing their homework in the dark, reducing their motivation to learn and increasing the risk of myopia, or they can only go to convenience stores to study because "it's brighter there." This also increases the danger of being outside without adult supervision. Besides that, some social workers tell us that darkness increases the chances of domestic violence and sexual assault because, in the dark, problems are concealed and easier to hide.


Not only does the lack of light rob us of warmth and hope, but without light, even our everyday life becomes inconvenient and even increases many physical and mental risks.


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What is energy poverty? What impact did it have on a family?


According to the UK definition, when the total energy expenditure such as water bill, electricity bill, and gas bills account for more than 10% of household income, it is called "energy poverty". Some families, due to economic disadvantages, cannot save electricity and are internationally known as "energy-poor households."


These households have a high proportion of second-hand home appliances. Although these appliances consume a lot of electricity, they are the only choice because they cannot afford new, energy-saving appliances and can only recycle second-hand ones or accept donations from others.


Energy-consuming and prone to failure home appliances, such as light bulbs, refrigerators, and air conditioners, often make the monthly electricity bills of these families high. For example, the monthly electricity bill for a family of three in summer exceeds NT$6,000 (source), which is higher than the average electricity bill for households in Taiwan, but their income comes from subsidies, and often after rent and electricity bills are deducted, there is not much left.


Energy poverty not only creates huge economic pressures but also endangers health and personal safety. For example, a malfunctioning refrigerator makes food easy to rot; an unstable water heater means no hot showers in the winter; or as mentioned above, moving in the dark always hides violence and danger, and children can't study properly.


Not to mention these energy-consuming appliances contribute to more energy waste in the environment. And these families lack proper electricity usage knowledge. Plus, poor housing conditions, exposed sockets, or improper use of extension cords become a high risk for electrical fires.



Ending energy poverty starts with replacing energy-efficient LED lights


In 2015, DOMI took over the "Taipei City Vulnerable Energy Welfare Project", hoping to protect the environment while also using DOMI's expertise to help families in need.


DOMI's goal is to replace lights with brighter and energy-efficient LED light bulbs for families in need. At the same time, because of this project, we have a better understanding of the issue of "energy poverty".


DOMI's founder, Tammy, recalls: that she was stationed in a community with a relatively high concentration of low-income households to promote the project. A little girl took the initiative to talk to her, saying that before the family replaced energy-saving light bulbs, she was unable to do her homework at home: "My mother said not to waste electricity, and the light bulbs in our house are broken, so I go to 7-11 and write until 9 pm to go home."


After 5 years, DOMI has assisted nearly 4,100 households switch to energy-saving LED lights, saving over NT$20 million in electricity bills. DOMI hopes to start with lighting, and help these families save a lot of unnecessary electricity expenses, which can be used to support other purposes, such as children's education expenses and more nutritious food at home; it also allows these children who wander outside because their homes are dark to return home safely and comfortably.


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After getting one foot in the door, we found out that there were so many people in need. What else can we do?


But the more we got to understand this issue, and the more we visited various places in Taiwan, we found that there are still too many "energy-poor households." And the resources needed to help these families are not something DOMI can shoulder alone.


So we are thinking about how to combine the environmental protection issues that DOMI values, and large enterprises that have resources and want to contribute to society and continue to support more needy energy-poverty households.


Because of this, in 2021, the "Power to Change Energy Prosperity Project" was born.


DOMI has launched an innovative model that can combine the above three. As long as everyone who has a paper bill is willing to support and act together, it can promote the influence and help more energy-poverty households.


Use daily actions to link energy poverty and climate issues


The "Power to Change Energy Prosperity Project” invites corporations with a large number of paper bills to cooperate with DOMI. As long as the public is willing to digitize paper bills, the cooperative companies will partly support DOMI with the cost saved, letting us lead a professional team to help energy-poverty households replace energy-saving LED light bulbs, giving these families brighter homes and more different opportunities.


This model allows us to reduce paper waste,  protect carbon-absorbing trees, and immediately benefit the environment; at the same time, companies can save the cost of printing, sending bills, and even marketing promotions; more importantly, they can use these resources saved to invest it into the homes of energy-poor households.


DOMI hopes that by 2030, Taiwan will be able to digitize all of its more than 100 million bills and help millions of households that are already in energy poverty. And to promote all of this, we need you, who also agree with this concept and model to immediately digitize the bank statements that have already cooperated with DOMI, and sign the petition, to help us invite more companies that haven't partnered with us to join.


Let's take daily action together, to take responsibility to protect and restore the earth, and at the same time, let these vulnerable families have the ability to light a lamp for their families, light up their lives, and light up the hope in their hearts.


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