Richard and Sarah attended REconomy/LIFT (Local Innovation For Transition) on February 25th in London. The event gave Transition Town groups across London and the South East the chance to get together and share knowledge and ideas with a particular focus on strengthening local economies.
Richard gave a short presentation about what ESC are working on in Hastings and ran a workshop with Chris Rowlans from OVESCO on innovations in community energy.
Teilhard de Chardin, one time Hastings resident, Jesuit scientist and philosopher, the one whose writing was banned for many years by the Vatican, thought that the way to understand something was not to break it down into its constituent parts but to embrace it in all its complexity.
The greater the complexity, the further your mind has to stretch. So here’s a paradox. What if the solution to climate change, inadequate housing, the energy crisis, and fuel poverty were one and the same? It is 2016. We live in one of the richest countries in the world. It was an unusually mild winter.
Yet the UK experienced the highest Excess Winter Death rates in 15 years (43,900). Double the rates in Scandinavian countries that are far colder. 9000 people died because their houses were too cold. You can imagine the “National Scandal” headline except that such a headline never appeared. Where are our media?
According to Dr Mari Martiskainen, a Research Fellow at the Centre on Innovation and Energy Demand based at the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at Sussex University. “2.35 million Households in England living in poor quality, energy inefficient housing have to decide each winter whether to ‘eat or heat’.” Mari was a speaker at last Friday’s Community Solutions to Fuel Poverty workshop in Hastings organised by Energise Sussex Coast where the Rt Hon Amber Rudd MP, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change was a guest.
Peter Smith, Head of Policy and Research at fuel poverty charity National Energy Action (NEA) gave us the local facts: “Fuel poverty causes needless suffering and costs local health services a fortune. In Hastings we know around 5850 households are unable to afford to heat their homes and an estimated 297,000 households in the South East are living in fuel poverty.”
We looked at some local case studies. “R”, aged 83, who was charged for electricity by two companies, one of whom (EDF) owed him £ 2185. Mr. and Mrs. “N”, in their 90’s, whose meter was too high to read so they had estimated readings from British Gas for 1.5 years and were in credit by £ 1100.
You may have seen one of our case studies featured in the BBC Panorama programme “Too poor to stay warm” and in the BBC article “Anatomy of a cold home” featuring Hayley and her three children from Hollington.
Their rented property has prepayment meters, a boiler last made in 1995, old style radiators, and dangerous condensation everywhere. They have to wipe black and white mould off their belongings almost daily. We put a datalogger in the house and it showed temperatures of 12 at night (in April) and, shockingly, recorded humidity levels of 90% (humidity levels between 40 and 60% are healthy). No wonder the children, all under 8, were ill a lot of the time. Yet under new legislation that house, with an E rated EPC, can still be rented in 2018.
So what’s the solution? These cases highlight different aspects of a complex problem but in Hayley’s case, the answer is surprisingly simple. It was succinctly and passionately expressed by Dr Brenda Boardman of Oxford University at the workshop last week.
If we retrofit the town’s inefficient homes (social and private) to proper standards, including proper health standards, and do it soon, we won’t just eradicate fuel poverty but reduce energy and greenhouse gas emissions and address climate change, all at the same time.
How do we do it and how do we pay for it? The good news for Hastings is that a partnership of Amicus Horizon, Hastings council and Energise Sussex Coast have won £ 900, 000 in an EU funded bid to improve 600 homes in Ore over 3 years – the first Climate Active Neighbourhood (CAN) scheme. Part of the scheme involves installing smart meters and home energy management systems in 100 homes so that households can make the most of solar energy even when there are no panels on their roofs. A “club” of residents are then helped to switch their energy demand away from peak times, to store energy when it is cheap and reduce their use when it is expensive who can then benefit from time of use tariffs and the cheaper prices of energy generated and shared locally.
This is the direction the future energy market is taking. Luckily, we can be at the leading edge of it. The challenge is going to be engaging people enough so that they will want to change their behavior and spend money improving their homes to make them healthier, cheaper to run and more climate friendly, especially those households not trapped in poverty. So let’s figure out what makes us happier – and that could include lifting our community out of fuel poverty – and everything else may follow. More money, local jobs, local energy, more community spirit.
We love our town, care about it, invest more locally, buy less stuff we don’t need, grow our own food, make our homes cosier. All of which reduces carbon without us even noticing it. That was something else Teilhard de Chardin said. There is no evolutionary future for anyone unless everyone is included.
Our workshop held at Sussex Coast College on May 13th saw a wide range of speakers coming together to discuss Fuel Poverty in the UK. Below are the speakers presentations saved in easy to view PDF files.
Last Friday’s Community Solutions to Fuel Poverty workshop organised by Energise Sussex Coast and sponsored by National Energy Action (NEA) was chaired by the Rt Hon Amber Rudd MP, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. The workshop held at Sussex Coast College saw a unique range of companies and organisations come together to find solutions to one of the UK’s biggest challenges: Fuel Poverty.
Hastings residents will benefit from an innovative project which aims to improve 600 homes in the north east of the town. The project will save residents money by reducing both their energy bills and the carbon emissions from their home and helping to tackle climate change.
The project is funded via an EU scheme called Climate Active Neighbourhoods (CAN). It will run over three years and is a partnership between Amicus Horizon, Hastings Borough Council and Energise Sussex Coast. It will see a total investment of nearly £900 000 and will be used to support various home improvements and resident advice projects.
It’s one of only two areas in the whole of the UK to have been chosen to take part, with similar projects being run in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and France.
The CAN project will seek to improve the energy efficiency of 100 AmicusHorizon owned homes, and 500 private homes. It is also hoped that it will enable a competitive energy tariff to be obtained for all Hastings residents, potentially making worthwhile savings in energy bills for many families across the town. And it will see a major programme of energy advice delivered throughout the town.
AmicusHorizon will survey 100 of its homes to establish the most cost effective measures needed to reduce bills and carbon emissions. This could include fitting wall and loft insulation, new heating systems, LED lighting, draught proofing and renewable energy systems.
Energise Sussex Coast will be training Warm Home Champions to share good practice, opening energy advice centres in the North East Hastings area and commissioning home energy management systems in 100 homes.
Jane Porter, Executive Director Operations at AmicusHorizon, said:
“We’re delighted to have received endorsement and support for this project. This EU investment is great news for Hastings and will enable us to improve the energy efficiency of 100 of our homes and deliver a major programme of energy advice. This is also a great opportunity for AmicusHorizon to work with our local partners, Hastings Borough Council and Energise Sussex Coast, to deliver a programme that benefits both our residents and the wider community.”
Hastings Borough Council’s lead member for housing, Cllr Kim Forward, added:-
“I’m really pleased that this project has been given the go-ahead, which will benefit many local residents. We will play an active role in promoting the project, and will work with local community groups and organisations to support their ideas to tackling climate change in their homes. We will also carry out in-depth research to map domestic energy use across homes in the town, and look at specific measures which can help people reduce their energy use and save them money in the long term.”
Energise Sussex Coast has booked the Atrium space at the local college for the day and we will run energy bill checks and workshops on heating and draught-proofing and promote the Big Energy Saving Network scheme and Winter Home Check service.
The aim of the event is to introduce participants – particularly young families and elderly and vulnerable residents– to the huge range of local volunteer organisations that support good health and happier living in Hastings.
The event will be attended by organisations involved in helping Hastings residents stay warm, well, healthy, safe, solvent and happy.
Interested in free training to help the community stay warm and well and save money on energy bills?
We are always looking for volunteers to train so that you can engage with friends, family and neighbours and help them save money and energy as well as access free insulation and other grants to help with fuel debt.
This month NEA is running free training sessions in Hastings and Rother.
Select ‘NEA Fuel poverty and health (East Sussex County Council)’
Create a new account by following the instructions provided
When you are prompted for an ‘enrolment key’ enter: nea100?esC
(please note that this is case-sensitive)
Resources are available for frontline staff or volunteers to assist them in spotting the signs that someone is suffering from the cold and to make sure that they know what help is available for their clients. Order copies of these from the East Sussex County Council health promotion resources webpages, where you can also access other leaflets and posters, teaching aids and online material (across a variety of health promotion topics) for free.
Apologies, we are so busy here at the moment that we put the wrong amount on our news item about the Chesshire Lehmann fund (now updated). We received £3,500, not £15,000 but this is such an important research area that we are hoping to get more funding to expand the project.
The idea behind it is to do lots of case studies around the wellbeing effects of having a warm home. If we can help a household get a new and efficient boiler, or help with fuel debt, or even switch their energy supplier and save them £300 a year, this can have a hugely positive effect on a family’s health and wellbeing.
But how can we measure that? We know that by taking away the fear someone may have that putting on the heating for an extra hour is going to cost too much – or by simply getting someone the Warm Home Discount worth £140 when they did not know they were eligible – we can make them “feel” better. So what we want is more anecdotal evidence to prove that there is a positive impact on mental health.
That way we can convince the Government that one of the best ways to reduce the NHS budget is to invest in warmer homes and energy efficiency. Not only is this good for the climate – and some very senior consultants believe that climate change poses the biggest health risk we have ever faced – but it will relieve pressure on the NHS, reduce the 8000 deaths a year that result from cold homes, and even boost local jobs and GDP.
Quite apart from those benefits, no one vulnerable should be living in a home that they cannot keep warm. No child should be living in a home that is too cold to study in. No family should have to choose between heating and eating. We plan to launch a Warm Home campaign very soon. If you want to support us in this work get in touch.