It never hurts to take a moment to consider those who cannot afford to heat their homes properly. They may be closer than you think.
A home is considered to be in fuel poverty if it needs to spend more than 10% of its income to heat it to adequate levels. In England, this is 21 degrees in the living room and 18 degrees in the bedroom.
Within these parameters, around 2.3 million households in the UK can’t heat their homes to a suitable level. In one year, more people die from the cold in their homes than alcohol or traffic accidents. For our elderly, one person dies every seven minutes from the cold each winter. A sobering thought, particularly when the technology to keep our homes warm is surely more accessible now than it’s ever been.
It’s not just older people who are affected by fuel poverty. Young people and those from low-income backgrounds are also vulnerable. Thankfully, though, there are housing associations to help those that need it. The Accord Group is one of the biggest housing groups in the West Midlands with 14,000 homes. Their tenants are generally the social groups that are most likely to be facing a cold winter in poorly heated homes.
Energy UK says a key factor that causes fuel poverty is the energy efficiency of homes, together with high energy costs and low incomes. The Accord Group is tackling this aspect of the problem in a bid to create long-term, sustainable, cost-effective solutions for their tenants.
One outcome is the Retrofit Project. As the video explains, the Accord Group tested low-carbon technologies in a group of properties to see what worked for their tenants and what didn’t. Energy-efficient insulation, solar panels and heating systems were all monitored to see the difference they could make. Using the results, the team supported local entrepreneurs by looking at ways of commercialising the products, strengthening the low-carbon supply chain and creating new opportunities in the UK housing and construction markets.
Working on the project was a fascinating insight into the process of how people build ground-breaking low-carbon technologies, and the difficult journey to turn them into genuine commercial opportunities. It’s tough, but the payoff for everyone involved will be worth the efforts.
Maureen Golding and Susan Higgins, two tenants of the Accord Group.
The tenants shared how the products went beyond warmer houses and lower energy bills. There’s also a community dimension. One tenant explained how they had gained the confidence to host guests while another spoke about having a greater sense of pride in their home. It points towards comfort and a better quality of life not only for the tenants but also their friends, families and neighbours.
Another highlight was witnessing Energiesprong, the first project of its kind in the UK. As the video shows, it’s an impressive feat of engineering with enormous potential. The Accord Group are the first housing association in the country to deliver the idea because of their own timber factory, so it will be interesting to see how the project progresses.
The Retrofit Project was part funded through the European Regional Development Fund. At the end of the project, the Accord Group were held to account for how they spent the public funds. They needed to show a demonstrable impact on local businesses and communities, with the bigger aim of boosting the region’s economy. The video was a persuasive tool for proving exactly how it helped the people it aimed to serve, along with written evidence and data to back it up.
The AceOn Battery is one local SME that benefitted from the Retrofit Project.
When organisations need to make a case for justifying how they spent public funds, video can show, not just tell, why a project was worthwhile. In this case, hearing Maureen describe in her own words how the works have inspired her neighbours to take pride in the appearance of their street, or Mark explain the nine new jobs he was able to offer local people, video is more powerful and engaging than an isolated long text document. It’s suitable for internal use, proving a project’s value to a board of directors, and doubles up as effective marketing content.
While efforts like the Retrofit Project are looking at long-term ways of relieving fuel poverty, you can help this winter. Visit Winter Wrapped Up by Age UK and the End Fuel Poverty Coalition for resources and more information.