ASET – Automatic Social Energy Tariff



Policy areas

Organisation name AMA - Administrative Modernisation Agency

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Contact person: Claudia Barroso

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.

The ASET has excellent potential for the future, for as long as there are financially vulnerable families. It relies on the financial contributions of both the Portuguese State and the energy suppliers, which ensure the financial sustainability of the project. Besides, the initiative is also supported by the entire Portuguese political spectrum, ensuring that, even with the future changes in the government, this social tariff will remain a reality.

The process is fully automated, and this allows the public administration and citizens to save time and money. Environmentally speaking, ASET means, for instance, a saving of around 150 trees per year which is quite significant, particularly when the potential to expand this method to other areas is almost never-ending.

The potential for adaptability of this social tariff is great, either for other countries or other levels of government, shown by the the Portuguese Government which has already expanded this process to other utilities such as gas, water and wastewater. The latter, for instance, involves both central and local government entities, which was not the case with ASET. Overall, the basic idea can be adopted by other sectors of the state, to address many different issues and promote a more efficient, fair and inclusive public sector.

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