Rugby FoE > Local Campaigns > Energy Conservation

Energy Conservation and Fuel Poverty:

Green Energy means much more than using energy from renewable sources and the foreseeable future isn't necessarily entirely Non-Fossil Fuel, yet. Key is Energy Conservation to reduce how much energy is needed in the first place. For some this is a question of life and death.

20,000 to 40,000 people die every year because of cold in this country:

Fuel Poverty means needing to spend more than 10% of your income on fuel to achieve adequate levels of warmth and (in 2003) 19% of Rugby households were living in fuel poverty, compared to a national average of 22%; this figure rose to 29% in our most deprived wards and life satisfaction isn't great for those affected. It's a dreadful blow to the pride not being able to pay for heating. Energy efficiency, which can mean simple measures such as loft and cavity wall insulation, is the only permanent solution.

Under a Government scheme, energy suppliers are obliged to encourage people to use energy more efficiently by helping with the supply and costs of installation of energy saving measures and providing advice on energy efficiency.

Simple tips for energy saving in your home:

  1. Insulating your home: By properly insulating your home you could save 180 a year on your heating bills; put a jacket on your hot water tank; insulate your loft (save 155 a year); fill your wall cavities (save 120 a year); draught-proof to eliminate draughts; install double glazing (save 120 a year).
  2. Use energy-saving light bulbs.
  3. Switching off: Don't leave it on standby; Turn off the lights; Take control of your heating - Lower your thermostat at night and whenever the house is unoccupied. Close off and don't heat unoccupied.

Investment to reduce Total Cost of Ownership of social housing

Plans for social housing should consider the total cost of ownership and not just let developers get away with building "cheap" but wasteful homes which will be expensive to run and saying that energy efficiency measures to the cheaper properties would render them "unaffordable". Huge investment is required and the money has to come partly from companies and it has to come directly from government itself if we're going to get anywhere close to the kind of investment required to solve the problem.

In May 2008 plans were announced by Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks, to help elderly and vulnerable people pay their fuel bills, but since then we have the road transport lobby complaining about fuel prices, the Shell drivers' strike and the news that household energy bills would increase by as much as 40% that winter alone.

In September 2008 Pensioners were "outraged" at a glib remark made by Mark Owen-Lloyd, lead power and carbon trader for Coventry-based energy giant E.on, who lives in the Warwick area. When asked during a presentation at a winter outlook seminar run by industry regulator Ofgem how high gas and oil prices could be affected by a harsh winter, the bigwig joked that a severe winter "will make more money for us". Indeed it will. During 2008/09 E.on, Britain's third biggest energy supplier, made profits of 877million and then in August 2008 slapped an extra 26% on gas bills and 16% on electricity for its 5.5 million customers.

The Government's fuel poverty strategy is hopelessly off course and millions of households are suffering as a consequence. It is literally a life and death situation. The BERR & DEFRA sponsored Fuel Poverty Advisory Group (FPAG) has specifically criticised the Government for failing to fully recognise the importance of securing the highest possible energy efficiency in the homes of low income and vulnerable households. Friends of the Earth director Andy Atkins said in October 2008: "The Government's fuel poverty strategy is in meltdown...", "...The only long term solution to fuel poverty is a massive energy efficiency programme. This will heat homes, cut bills and help meet our targets for tackling climate change."

Most Local Authorities are not showing leadership either:

It is important to provide sustainable solutions for the elderly, disabled people, and young families at risk from fuel poverty, so they are not left out in the cold. The only way to warm up our four million fuel-poor homes is to super-insulate them and help them produce their own energy. Rugby's 'Affordable Warmth Strategy' doesn't appear to address this.

To meet responsibilities under the 1995 Home Energy Conservation Act Rugby has an 'Affordable Warmth Strategy', which has three Key Targets from 2006 to 2009;

  1. 25% increase in monetary terms in take up of Warm Front Grants in the Borough.
  2. 500 Home Energy Check questionnaires completed by Rugby residents.
  3. 100 referrals made through Rugby's Affordable Warmth scheme to the Warwickshire Energy Efficiency Advice Centre (WEEAC).

These targets are not enough:

The government's windfall should be spent on speeding up work to improve insulation in the poorest homes "over and above" what is already planned. Rugby's targets don't ensure that the homes of the fuel poor are super-energy efficient, let alone designed to be fun, interesting, well-connected and thriving.

They concentrate on the 'carrot' of the money savings from installing low energy measures, but they perhaps should have a waste heat tax as a 'big stick' which would raise revenue for the scheme from the more wasteful households that could easily afford to put the measures in place and would get a greater financial advantage in doing so.

Things are slowly moving in that direction. In addition to 'National Indicator' NI 187 (on tackling Fuel Poverty for people receiving income based benefits), there are two other relevant indicators that apply to Local Authorities:

  1. NI 185 - shows the CO2 emissions reductions from the Local Authority's operations
  2. NI 186 - shows the per capita CO2 emissions in the LA area.
To be able to provide this information councils such as Coventry City (and Birmingham) are using aerial thermal-imaging surveys to show where heat is leaking.

Hot water...

Homes could also switch to high-efficiency boilers, though in June 2008 Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks also said that as many as a quarter of British homes could be fitted with solar heating panels, suggesting that this could be made a requirement of having any extension built.

But not everybody is having an extension built! The council should encourage individuals to reflect on their own life and to discover the rewards of engaging in re-shaping local activities and targets to deliver homes and communities that are well-being supportive, i.e. environmentally sensitive, well designed and built, street by street.

For instance Combined Heat and Power (CHP) would pump hot water at 90 degrees C around the town through a Heat Grid of pipes under the pavements which can store energy as heat - and where there are Heat Grids you don't need boilers in houses - and as you would no longer need boilers in houses you have more control over energy access & use, together with savings on infrastructure particularly for individual households.

910 on 9/11: In 2008, at the same time as the Eurotunnel crash and the XL holiday airline collapse, Gordon Brown unveiled a package of measures aimed to help people cope with the soaring cost of gas and electricity during the credit crunch. However,

Stop the suffering!

The Government can stop the suffering caused by rocketing energy bills if it follows a ten-point Fuel Poverty Charter launched by fuel poverty experts from a range of charities and consumer bodies, including Friends of the Earth, in September 2008, which sets out exactly what needs to be done to sort out this national disaster -

Ministers must now listen and take action now to fulfil all the recommendations

  1. A fully-costed Fuel Poverty Plan
  2. Re-establish fuel poverty as a Public Service Agreement (PSA) target, with a Task Force led by a senior Minister
  3. Set up a public database of the energy efficiency of the entire housing stock
  4. Bring all properties up to a minimum energy efficiency standard, starting with the homes of the fuel poor.
  5. Set a legal minimum energy efficiency standard for homes and buildings
  6. Provide crisis payments to low income and vulnerable households to relieve immediate suffering (Though this is not a long term solution to fuel poverty).
  7. Make sure that people eligible for existing benefits are taking them up.
  8. To help fund 6 and 4, a windfall tax on the unearned profits the energy companies gathered under the European Emissions Trading Scheme (EUETS) may well be justified.
  9. Take all possible steps to keep prices down and require all energy companies to offer social tariffs to their poorest and most vulnerable consumers.
  10. Introduce a renewable energy tariff within one year, to financially reward households and communities that produce their own renewable energy and make sure low income consumers can benefit by installing renewable energy systems in their homes for free.

... and build low-carbon Skills:

The 2008 Pre-Budget Report published on 24th November 2008 said;

"The Government will convene a forum on low-carbon skills to identify the action needed to ensure that the right training and vocational qualifications are in place to successfully manage the transition to a low-carbon economy".

See paragraph 7.27 on page 133 of the PDF of Chapter 7.

In May 2009 the Government tasked a high level cross-government forum on "skills for a low carbon and resource efficient economy" (LCREE), which included industry. A review of the evidence [PDF] was prepared by Pro Enviro, a Rugby-based company, and a key conclusion was that leaving this to employer demand is futile.

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