Energy costs are only going one way at the moment, as the papers are telling us every day; soon the higher bills will start hitting doormats and it will really kick in.
Just last week a poll by USwitch showed that 55% of us have kept the heating off, at least sometimes, to save energy during this coldest winter in 100 years. But shivering in your home is not what “energy-saving” is all about. At the Energy Saving Trust we talk a lot about using less energy to save money, as well as to cut carbon emissions, but that needs to be based on having provisions in place to keep warmth in. We’re also very aware of the danger of more people falling into fuel poverty, and this increase in people going cold at home is a worrying sign.
But there is some good news, at least in Wales! According to the last figures available, 330,000 people in Wales are spending at least 10% of their net household income on heating their homes, and with energy bills set to rise by around 8%, this figure is about to rise too. So we’re very pleased to be supporting British Gas to run the Welsh Assembly Government’s New Fuel Poverty Scheme.
We all know the saying: “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day; teach him to fish and he eats for a lifetime.” Well, on the same principle, this scheme will enable eligible people to keep their homes warm for less, by installing energy-saving measures (not fish).
Supporting British Gas, we will be aiming to raise F & G-rated homes to an Energy Performance Certificate Band C or SAP 69- not exactly Passivhaus standard, but a good start for people in the worst circumstances. Those who qualify could benefit from boiler replacements, solid wall insulation and microgeneration measures .
Our contribution to this will begin with partnership building and local outreach events. (Come back on Friday to see a Week in the Life of one of our outreach advisors.) We’ll be taking calls, of course; and we’ll also be reaching out to people who have traditionally been hard to get energy-saving messages out to – like people living in old, leaky properties in hard-to-reach areas. British Gas will work out the most effective measures to increase energy efficiency, and will do the installing. (They’ll also check up afterwards to make sure people are completely happy.)
Trust is obviously central to any scheme that involves going in and making changes to people’s homes, no matter what the benefits may be. We’re very happy we’re considered to be an organisation people are confident to deal with.
Our experience in Scotland, where we delivered the Energy Assistance Package, will also prove invaluable. It’s also fair to say that our unstoppable Advice Centres can handle big increases in call volume, following last year’s boiler scrappage scheme in England.
In the current climate of both cold weather and spending cuts, every penny (and every fish) counts. And this is where our expertise will come into its own: we’ll be bringing together all our data to find out where the scheme will best be targeted – where those worst energy-performing homes really are – so we can bring the scheme to the people who need it, and help them to save on their energy bills for a lifetime.
We’ll keep you updated with developments in Wales.