In the face of catastrophic climate change, we need to encourage energy efficiency and cleaner, renewable energy production, more than ever before. Unfortunately, our current government seems to be indifferent, if not intentionally hostile, to promoting this constructive, job-creating transition to a cleaner, income-generating and robust energy bill saving economy.  This government is promoting funding of the destructive fossil fuel and nuclear industries.   Our MPs own pension scheme invests in the fossil fuel industry for starters.  While a significant minority recently backed divestment from fossil fuels, sadly the majority of MPs in government did not1.

Then there’s the promotion of the hugely unpopular hydraulic fracturing industry against the democratic will of the people2 and the attacks on onshore wind3 and solar energy4, both very popular renewable energy technologies5. These renewables, given the chance to flourish, as it did before the government started taxing and wrapping the renewable industry in red tape, can transform the UK’s energy security fears, reduce fuel poverty and meet our vital climate targets. We could have an economy that works for local, small to medium-sized businesses and domestic consumers alike, rather than an economy that benefits only the large energy corporations which still dominate over 80% of the UK’s energy market. The constant drain on the public’s finances by the UK’s large, enormously profit taking energy companies, duping the customer with over-priced energy tariffs, have serious consequences for people’s livelihoods and wellbeing.

One significant step to reducing energy bills for both domestic customers and businesses is to improve energy efficiency. According to the Office of National Statistics’ 2011 census, Brighton & Hove had the highest proportion of residents privately renting out of any town or city in England and Wales; more than 30% of households. Around 26,000 people are on the council housing waiting list and 1 in 69 people in Brighton & Hove are homeless6.

However, the incentive for private landlords to increase the energy efficiency of their properties just isn’t there. The government’s weak legislation requiring landlords to improve their properties’ energy efficiency, by achieving a minimum energy performance rating of E on an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) by April 2018, isn’t helping at all.  Yes, there are other regulations, which came into effect from 1st April, where a tenant can apply for consent to carry out energy efficiency improvements in privately rented properties7 under the provisions of the Energy Efficiency (Private Rented Property) Regulations 2015. However, in the current climate of retaliatory evictions for tenants who merely ask for simple repairs, let alone applying for consent to carry out improvements, it makes this legislation appear a greenwash exercise, with no meaningful support for those threatened with homelessness8 or suffering in fuel poverty.

To make UK households truly energy efficient the government needs the EPC rating of landlords’ properties to be at least a D. This is overdue for the huge numbers of residents living in sub-standard, enormously expensive, energy inefficient properties across the country. The government could help landlords achieve warmer, more comfortable homes with incentives. With the new round of Energy Company Obligation 2 Transition (ECO2t) funding for efficient heating and insulation grants, there should be more focus on offering all those landlords’ properties with EPC band ratings below a D, more fully funded grant access9.

BHESCo is an award winning not-for-profit community energy co-operative offering an innovative PAYS (pay-as-you-save scheme) for those domestic and business customers who can’t afford to pay for the energy efficiency improvement measures up-front. The savings from their energy bills are used to pay for the installations over a period of time and the occupants or tenants feel more comfortable in a warmer home, helping to reduce their energy bills. However, to encourage uptake there needs to be more of an incentive and active promotion in all sections of our community.

Another reason for requiring a D rating, is those landlords who wish to invest in solar energy generation can do so, thus helping to stimulate the UK’s wounded solar PV industry10 and make it economically viable for landlords. To obtain the maximum Feed-In Tariff (FIT) for solar PV installations, a household must attain a minimum EPC band D rating11. However, the government also needs to realise that renewable energy is going to be the cheapest form of energy production in the near future.  Onshore wind is already our cheapest source of electricity.  Not to mention the benefits of secure, locally-produced energy and the dire consequences from global climate change if we don’t act now. The government’s own Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) published a report saying a solar project commissioned next year was predicted to cost between £62 and £84 per megawatt hour (MWh) with onshore wind coming in at £49 to £79/MWh. Compare this to the cheapest form of gas costing between £60 and £62 and £154 to £166 for a more expensive gas system12.

We need active, forward-thinking local councillors and MPs to lobby Westminster and help promote energy efficiency and renewable technology in their constituencies, especially coming up to this general election in June. The technology and capability is already here, but we need the political will to make it happen now and not when it is too late.

 

  1. Holder, May 2017: 50 MPs back fight to divest parliament pension fund of fossil fuels, Guardian, 08/05/2017, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/may/08/5o-mps-back-fight-divest-parliament-pension-fund-fossil-fuels?CMP=share_btn_link.
  2. Simple Switch, October 2016: Government Overrules Council to Allow Fracking in Lancashire, https://www.simplyswitch.com/government-overrules-council-to-allow-fracking-in-lancashire/
  3. 10:10, April 2017: Stop the government wrapping wind turbines in red tape, https://1010uk.org/articles/blownaway-planning
  4. Johnston, March 2017: Budget 2017: Solar industry facing devastating 800% tax increase, Independent, 08/03/2017, http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/solar-industry-budget-2017-800-per-cent-tax-increase-green-renewable-energy-a7618191.html
  5. BEIS, May 2017: Energy & Climate Change Public Attitude Tracker – Wave 21, https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/energy-and-climate-change-public-attitude-tracking-survey-wave-21
  6. MAIS, May 2017: Housing Crisis: Community Solutions 2017, 11/05/2017, https://maisnetwork.net/2017/05/11/housing-crisis-community-solutions-2017/
  7. Residential Landlord’s Association, 2017: MINIMUM ENERGY EFFICIENCY STANDARDS, https://www.rla.org.uk/landlord/guides/minimum-energy-efficiency-standards.shtml
  8. Whitworth, February 2017: Revenge eviction law ‘not working’, 09/02/2017, http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/article/38795177/revenge-eviction-law-not-working
  9. NEA, Feb 2017: IN FROM THE COLD: The funding gap for non-gas fuel poor homes under ECO and a proposal to fill it.
  10. Solar Trade Association, August 2016: 2017 Business Rates Revaluation: Rooftop Solar PV.
  11. Ofgem, 2017: Feed-In Tariff (FIT) rates, https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/environmental-programmes/fit/fit-tariff-rates
  12. Johnston, February 2017: Government accused of trying to kill off UK solar industry before it can become cheapest form of electricity, Independent, 08/02/2017, http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/solar-energy-uk-government-accused-trying-to-kill-off-climate-change-theresa-may-a7570161.html.

 

 

‘Warmth for Wellbeing’ was a pioneering 15 month fuel poverty intervention project that lasted from January 2016 – March 2017. Funded by the British Gas ‘Healthy Homes’ programme, the project was supported Brighton & Hove City Council and involved 13 partners from the community and voluntary sectors across the city, including Citizens Advice, Money Advice Plus, and BHESCo.


As of March 2017, the programme had provided direct support to more than 555 households, with BHESCo delivering 220 free home energy surveys and helping residents to save an estimated £34,000 on winter fuel bills!

The Universities of Brighton & Sussex were asked to provide an independent evaluation of the project, and concluded that Warmth for Wellbeing had a significant impact on the lives of vulnerable people living in cold homes in Brighton and Hove.

Paul Bramwell of Citizens Advice and lead co-ordinator of Warmth For Wellbeing, said that “the project has clearly reached some of the most vulnerable people across Brighton & Hove and it is pleasing that we have been able to help people who need it.”

BHESCo were acknowledged by clients and project partners alike as being a cornerstone of the project’s success, and were recognised as demonstrating a level of ‘care’ from an energy service provider that stood out as being in distinct contrast with how people are ‘normally treated’ by energy companies.

The full report can be viewed here.

Find out how to reduce your fuel bills and energy use by visiting our Energy Saving Service page.

Since the start of the year, five ‘Big Six’ energy suppliers (EDF, Npower, E.On, SSE, and Scottish Power) have announced steep increases of between 8-10% in their standard tariff, leaving millions of households in the UK paying around £100 more for their gas and electricity bills.

The various reasons cited for these price hikes include the weakening of the pound compared to the US Dollar, an increase in wholesale costs, and the expense of delivering the national smart meter rollout (a government policy that energy suppliers are required to deliver by 2020).

And although other large energy suppliers have yet to announce price rises of their own, it’s a safe bet that it’ll just a matter of time until all standard tariffs go up. In the past few months we have noted an average increase of 10p per day on the standing charges of some energy suppliers, which will impact the poorest in society because it is charged regardless of much much energy is used. To compound matters, the Guardian recently reported that there are 77 fixed-price tariffs due to expire before the end of April, meaning thousands of UK households will automatically be moved onto an expensive standard tariff unless they take action.

This is why it is vitally important for people to switch, to make sure they are not paying over the odds on their energy bills. Last year, we collectively overpaid £2 billion too much to energy suppliers because 88% of us didn’t switch.

If someone is currently on a standard tariff, BHESCo would recommend that they sign up to a fixed tariff as soon as possible and lock in to a good price for 12 or 24 months. For households whose fixed tariff is due to expire soon, you can switch to a new fixed tariff up to 40 days in advance of your current contract ending, without having to pay an exit fee. Details of your tariff expiration date can be found on your bill.

There are various energy tariff comparison websites you can use, but BHESCo finds My Utility Genius the easiest.

If you would like free and reliable advice on finding the best energy tariff for your home, please contact BHESCo today:

phone: 0800 999 6671

email: bills@bhesco.co.uk

BHESCo have been awarded £2,500 from Brighton Energy Co-op’s Community Fund to help reduce levels of fuel poverty in the city. The aim of the fund is to support either renewable electricity generation or energy efficiency measures. They have asked BHESCo to deliver free home energy surveys and implement measures for some of the city’s most vulnerable residents.

BHESCo have already completed over 200 free energy surveys around Brighton as part of a ‘Warmth For Wellbeing’ programme, making homes warmer and more comfortable while also reducing monthly energy bills for those who may struggle to keep up.

But with over 15,000 households in the area identified as suffering from fuel poverty, there is still a great deal of work to be done.

BHESCo’s CEO Kayla Ente said.

“We are grateful to Brighton Energy Co-operative for this opportunity to extend our work to more people in our city who are living in cold homes. We will do our best to reach as many people as possible with the funding they have made available for this vital work.”

Brighton Energy Co-op’s Community Fund is paid for by the Feed in Tariffs on BEC’s existing systems and by donations from members.

As an amazing year for BHESCo draws to a close, we wanted to take a moment to share some of our proudest successes of the past 12 months, and to look ahead at all we can expect from 2016.

This year, we launched our first ever Share Offer in June, raising nearly £170,000 of investment from our new members. This gave us the tools we need to help local businesses and residents develop renewable energy projects around Brighton and Hove, like solar PV and biomass, as well as investing in energy saving measures like insulation, LED lighting and double-glazing.

With our first wave of projects nearly complete, we now have a number of exciting new projects ready to begin in 2016. Before we tell you about what’s to come, let’s take a quick look back at some of our highlights from this year.

Wood pelletTetherstone Stables, Horsham

Through BHESCo’s innovative ‘Pay As You Save’ model, we helped this local wood pulp to paper production company to install a biomass boiler on their premises which now provides 100% of heat needs to the manufacturing plant, offices, cottage, and studio. Whilst helping the customer to enjoy an immediate drop in fuel bills for no up front cost, the biomass boiler (which is powered by wood-pellets) also helps to offset the equivalent of 503 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year. We partnered with ‘A Greener Alternative‘ to help us deliver this project.

netfuse


Netfuse, Brighton

We are currently installing a 4kW solar PV panel array for Netfuse, which will help save money on electricity bills as well as lowering the company’s carbon footprint. To increase the energy efficiency of the building, BHESCo has engaged Organic Roofs to install a green roof, will install secondary glazing on the windows, and replace all the lights with highly efficient LEDs.  The LED are guaranteed to provide office quality lighting for five years.

image2


Solar For Homes, Whitehawk & Moulsecomb

In a joint project with Brighton and Hove City Council and Joju Solar, BHESCo went to the community to support the installation of free solar panels for 25 Council owned properties around the Whitehawk and Moulsecomb areas. While helping to save tenants up to £130 each year on their energy bills (at least 2 months for free for the next 25 years ), we anticipate carbon savings of just over 40 tonnes every year of CO2 equivalent.


The Werks, 45 Church Road, Brighton

The Werks on Church Road is a collaborative work hub for the digital creatives. BHESCo replaced an obsolete, flourescent tube lighting design with a high efficiency LED system.  The project was complex, as customer an occupants had their own requirements and preferences.  We completed the project to the customer’s satisfaction.  We also installed motion sensors to improve energy savings. Annually, Werks Group  save over 4200kg CO2 equivalent .


 NEW PROJECTS  for 2016

Food Waste To Community Energy

In October BHESCo announced to the residents of Hangleton and Knoll our plan to develop an Anaerobic Digester in the area, which would see local food waste diverted from landfill and incineration to be used to create clean renewable energy. We ran two information days and had a great turn out with people showing lots of support. We also heard from residents who had concerns around noise, smell, traffic and the visual impact, and we discussed ways that we will limit these impacts through technology and due care.foodwast

This month, working with Brighton Paper Round we have started contacting organisations that produce food waste (including restaurants, hotels, hospitals, schools, care homes, and many others) asking them to commit to separating and recycling their food waste through our scheme.  Not only will this divert useful food waste from landfill and create locally produced clean energy but it also makes great financial sense. According to a study conducted by Brighton Paper Round, organisations shifting their food waste from the general waste increase will see a drop in the costs for the collection and disposal of up to 40%.

It’s another win win win created by BHESCo! If you know of, or are part of, an organisation that may be interested in signing up to our food waste collection then get in contact today to find out how we can help to lower your environmental impact, reduce your waste disposal costs and create low cost energy for the community.


BHESCo To Launch New Home Visit Service

We are delighted to announce that we will be launching a new home energy assessment service from January 2016.  We aim to provide an affordable and impartial service which enables everyone in the community to receive a complete home energy assessment tailored to their circumstances.

Our friendly and professional Home Energy Advisors will arrange to visit your home to identify how you could save money and stay warm in the winter months.  They will also be on hand to provide impartial  energy supplier switching advice and can advise on whether you may be eligible for available benefits or grants towards your energy bills.

And Finally…

BHESCo would like show our enormous appreciation to everyone who has invested in the co-operative, or has worked alongside us on our various projects, or has volunteered some of their time to help us along our way. The Co-operative really is more than the sum of its parts and we could not have enjoyed such a fantastic 2015 without the support of you all.

So thank you,

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

 


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