In 2010, with the economic crisis in full force and the volatility of energy costs, the Portuguese Government, in line with the European guidelines and reinforced with the Directive 2009/72/EC, launched a reduced energy tariff for economically vulnerable citizens. This was to ensure that all families had access to essential energy services, without them representing an additional burden for those already facing difficulties. However, to be entitled to this tariff, citizens had to present a request followed by several documents to prove they met the criteria, in an enormous bureaucratic effort; often, they were not even aware of it.
This led to a very low number of requests, at least until 2016, as citizens did not know this reduced energy tariff existed or were unwilling to go through a complicated process to obtain it. The initiative was flawed, as it was not producing the intended impact. To overcome these problems, the social energy tariff was reshaped in 2016, becoming fully automatic and without the need for citizens to intervene in any way.
The new automatic social energy tariff (ASET), by using the interoperability platform developed by the Administrative Modernisation Agency (AMA), led to an increase of roughly 400% in the number of families benefiting the reduced energy tariff. This triggered an improvement in social equality and the protection of the most vulnerable categories. Evaluating the eligibility criteria is now an automatic process that crosses data from the Tax Authority and Social Security in a completely anonymised process.
This project follows several e-Government policies enacted by the Portuguese Government on the use of the national interoperability platform and the so-called once-only principle. This aims at making the Portuguese Public Administration more effective, efficient and mostly seamless whenever possible.