CEE set up an active working group in March 2022 of experts in energy efficiency and energy advice which has been meeting regularly to discuss how community energy can organise urgently to get a larger and more reliable piece of the funding pie to do this vital work.
The aims of the group are:
- To present ‘a unified front’ to the government to enable community energy to be able to get a bigger part of the policy and funding pie for energy advice (and efficiency) work.
- To get our thinking organised prior to talking to the BEIS Energy Advice Team about designing a new policy, and a tender. What CE can offer, what does community energy need and how we should work together?
- How can we get the best evidence together to present the extra value CE offers in this sector?
Policy and Advocacy
Since the first meeting, over a short period of time, the group created two proposals for community energy to be supported by the government to undertake energy advice work. These are currently being discussed with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). These proposals are for a local advice rescue package and a revolving 0% loan fund for unable to pay retrofit. As part of our discussions with BEIS, CEE has created a working document to evidence the value of undertaking energy advice work via community energy businesses compared to alternative models. We are continuing to work on this document so if you have any evidence, particularly quantitative evidence, demonstrating the benefit of community energy advice please send this to email@example.com.
CEE, along with the working group, are also exploring alternative funding methods to allow a version of the local advice rescue plan to take place this winter. This has included working on submitting an application to the Energy Redress fund for a pilot study to take place in one or more of the Energy Hub regions.
Energy efficiency and advice have become a large workstream for CEE and this spreads across the whole team. As well as our policy and advocacy work, CEE also organised Community Energy Fortnight 2022 which this year had a theme of ‘Efficiency First’.
To coincide with Community Energy Fortnight CEE also launched a challenge to the sector to get as many organisations as possible offering energy advice by the winter of 2022/23.
In order to help organisations achieve this goal, CEE has been working on organising subsidised energy advice training with National Energy Action (NEA). We believe the interest that we received in this offer (over 160 expressions of interest) demonstrates the sector's willingness to take up our challenge and undertake this type of work, particularly in the face of an energy crisis.
Energy bills are rising. The price cap will rise by 54% in April and again in October. Average bills could exceed £3,000 by the end of the year, plunging up to 50% of the UK population into fuel poverty, probably including some of us.
The government is treating the symptoms with grants, council tax rebates and loans - all about paying fuel bills. This is urgent and necessary but there is very little serious work on treating the systemic cause - inefficient, leaky homes. The Insulate Britain campaign was controversial but made a brilliant case as to why it was a no-brainer on every front.
Community energy is brilliant at offering energy advice that helps reduce energy bills. It has never been more urgently needed. Yet, it is a continual struggle to get support to do this work, which yields £10 of social benefit for every £1 invested according to a recent Bristol University study. It yields huge community benefits, and carbon savings - often more than our renewable generation projects.
Meanwhile, as a sector, we should mobilise with what we have, upskill volunteers, provide resources and get the solutions out to people who are suffering. If you have energy experts, can they train more volunteers? This will show the government we are effective. Face-to-face, local advice is provably better than via a national help-line or website.
Community Energy England has raised funds from Power to Change and Westmill Solar to assist 24 people to do the NEA Energy Awareness Level 3 course, the basic qualification required by local authoriites to undertake energy advice for them. Additional training on actually delivering advice will be provided. We aim to raise more funds from the Energy Redress Fund to extend this upskilling and upscaling work.
If you don't have skilled advisers perhaps start by adapting this simple 'guide to staying warm and saving money’ and circulating it through your networks. Printing and delivering is a good way of assessing where your advice might be best targeted. You could start with recommending this excellent letterbox draft stopper by Magflap.
There are excellent resources on offering energy advice, some of which are gathered here. Recent videos include Community Energy South's Energy Champions in your Community' masterclass and York Community Energy's 'Talk Money - Energy Advice session'. We will be collating more useful resources over the coming weeks.
Please do send your favourite resources to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are interested in this topic and would like to contribute to this discussion please email email@example.com.