Having met with Amber Rudd on Tuesday 24th May, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change mentioned that the government was working with NICE (The National Institute for Heath and Care Excellence) to provide guidelines on how to deal with fuel poverty. She also highlighted the need to work with GPs and local councils to focus government spending in the most cost-effective way to help the estimated 12 million people in the UK who often skip meals to keep warm.
As a recent BBC Panorama investigative report noted fuel poverty is not just an energy or climate change issue, it is a social and health issue responsible for 9000 deaths in 2015 alone and which is costing the NHS an estimated £1.3billion per year. Fuel poverty is undoubtedly a silent and hidden epidemic in UK society today which begs the question what can be done to tackle the issue head on?
Minus7 recently sponsored an exclusive event organised by Glen King PR in Exeter to provide a forum for leading experts to share their experience and expertise in tackling fuel poverty effectively.
Presentations from local government, legal specialists in renewable energy, social landlords and the UK’s only building biologist punctuated by several Q&A sessions generated lively discussion and food for thought.
The event was live-tweeted via #SmartEnergyChoices on @Minus7UK’s Twitter handle – over 7,500 people followed the event on Twitter.
L-R Hamish Wilson;Hilary Pitts; Emma Ombudsman; David Greensmith; Alison Stock; Tomas Gartner; Mike Harrison
Hamish Wilson, CEO of Minus7, gives his thoughts on the event..
Mike Harrison of Poole Housing Partnership (PHP) explained the journey of Smart Energy Choices that PhP had made over the last 15 years. As one of the early adopters of PV, installed a number of systems and were able to take advantage of the high feed in tariff. This is a secure revenue stream lasting 20 years and can be used to fund new technologies. Mike has installed the Minus7 system and was pleased to note that tenants’ heating and hot water bills for a 3-bed house were around £200 per annum. The low cost of heating increases tenant’s cash and thus makes them more likely to pay their rent – a huge benefit to the social landlord.
Hillary Pitts and Alison Stock from Stephens Scown talked about the legal aspects of installing district heating systems and the tenants right to buy. Each configuration (i.e. single dwelling, apartment, terraces) has differing legal implications in being able to sell a single property. However the key point made was that the contractual framework for Right to Buy has been established. They advised that the contract is established early before embarking on any development scheme.
Emma Osmundsen presented the Exeter City Council strategy of all new building in Exeter being to Passivhaus standard. Emma presented a very powerful case for Passivhaus for dramatically reducing heating bills while also improving the quality of life for tenants.
The core of the Exeter City approach was to address ‘the triple bottom line’ – people, profit and planet. She showed how the Passivhaus strategy addressed all three through keeping people comfortable, while generating a return for the council, and contributing to the saving the planet through low carbon. She also unveiled ambitious plans for the UK’s first leisure centre built to Passivhaus standards and commented: “Fuel poverty is a growing issue from the need to both heat, and increasingly to cool our homes, as climatic conditions change. This seminar provided an excellent forum for some of the leading experts in providing solutions to this challenge, to speak and share their experience and expertise.”
Emma was followed by Tomas Gartner, the UK’s only building biologist from Gale & Snowden, who explained how the Passivhaus buildings were designed and focused on detailing to reduce fabric loss. It was interesting to note the emphasis both Emma and Tomas placed on building to future climate conditions and the Prometheus climate model. Both feel that the future challenge is likely to be cooling not heating. Temperature rises of in excess of 5 ºC are forecasted are within the lifetime of buildings being constructed now.
Neil Biddiscombe from Advantage South West then explained how they set up a community energy project to help tenants switch to low cost energy providers.
His conclusion was to point out how much effort is needed to get people to change – even if it does save them money – £150 to £300 per annum on average for those participating in the pilot scheme.
Implications for Minus7
We were very grateful for the praise Mike Harrison gave Minus7 through being able to provide low cost, low carbon heating. It was also good to note that the right to buy issues can be solved contractually – particularly for systems like ours that might have shared roofs and shared heating systems.
We were particularly impressed with the Exeter City Passivhaus approach. We noted that our system is a very good fit for the concept as one of our systems can provide low cost, low carbon heat and hot water to 6 dwellings. The integration of PV into the system further reduces the dwellings’ carbon footprint. We noted the emphasis on cooling. The Minus7 system operates from both a hot store and cold store from which we can provide both heating and cooling.
The seminar was a fantastic opportunity to further inform the fuel poverty debate, by exploring how UK energy suppliers, fuel poverty policy and smart energy choices contribute towards a socially-just transition to a low carbon society. Renewable space-heating technologies remain under deployed, yet they are the focus of government policy. It was great to see Minus7 highlighted as best in class as an affordable, complete solution to eradicate fuel poverty and deliver low carbon low cost heat to vulnerable people.
Unable to attend the seminar personally, due to parliamentary commitments Ben Bradshaw said: “Fuel poverty is a growing issue both from the need to heat homes and increasingly to cool our homes as climatic conditions change. The Fuel Poverty Seminar provided an excellent forum for some of the leading experts in providing solutions to fuel poverty to speak and share their experience and expertise.”
If you would be interested in attending one of our future events, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.