As part of Brighton & Hove City Council’s Energywise programme, BHESCo’s Dan Curtis was invited to run an energy workshop for a group of recently arrived refugees at Voices In Exile.

The Energywise initiative has been designed to deliver part of the SHINE project which aims to make the city more sustainable, and was delivered in partnership with Brighton Peace & Environment Centre (BPEC). Energywise seeks to educate marginalised groups about simple ways to use energy more efficienctly and heat homes more affordably.

The workshop took things right back to basics, beginning with how to understand a bill and find key information about your tariff. Many consumers find the maths and jargon of bills overwhelming, leaving people feeling confused and frustrated. For anyone recently arrived in the UK who is still learning the language, getting your head around energy bills is a complex and challenging experience.

Learning about energy bills at Voices in Exile

We looked at the different types of tariff and payment methods available, and explained why its best to get on a fixed deal. In Syria, for example, the gas and utility network is operated by a state run monopoly, meaning there’s only one choice available. It was therefore important to demonstrate there are dozens of suppliers in the UK and hundreds of tariffs to choose from, with prices differing by as much as £300 a year.

We then talked about ways to use less energy in the home which can help make big savings on bills. We thought about which appliances use lots of electricity, such as washing machines and tumble dryers, and considered how they can be used less (by drying clothes outdoors for example).

saving money on energy bills at voices in exile workshop

Finally we looked at different types of energy saving measures that can stop heat escaping in winter. We had some examples like draught excluders and secondary glazing, which we passed around and explained how to use. We also explained how LEDs can save 90% on lighting bills, as well as being good for the environment.

The workshop was a great success, and we’re hoping to run similar events with Voices in Exile when new groups or migrants arrive. As part of the Energywise programme, we’ve also done talks for older people’s faith groups as well as service users of the Grace Eyre Foundation which supports people with learning difficulties.

Despite government targets to end fuel poverty by 2010, there are an estimated 4 million households who struggle to heat their homes or who have to choose between ‘heating or eating’. BHESCo offer free and impartial advice to anyone who wants help with their energy bills. Please get in contact if you, your friends or your family need some help

Brighton Peace & Environment Centre (BPEC) are running a coaches to the Glastonbury Festival 2019. The coaches are provided by the Big Lemon Bus Co. and are cheaper than National Express.

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