Training needs and energy advice
2007-2008 Concerns about the increasing numbers of households living in fuel poverty led to three Select Committee Enquiries, questions raised in Westminster and the devolved Parliaments and a succession of Early Day Motions, adjournment debates and Ministerial Statements.
Against this backdrop NEA continued to campaign for increased resources for energy efficiency schemes. An evaluation of the economic impacts of fuel poverty interventions in the North East of England demonstrated that increased investment in anti-fuel poverty measures resulted in wider economic benefits through increased job creation, skills development and income redistribution, adding value to the local economy.
This was another record breaking year for NEA’s training services with training and assessments provided for more people than ever before. 800 candidates were awarded NEA’s C&G 6176 Energy Awareness qualification. Rising fuel prices resulted in increasing levels of fuel debt and NEA rose to the challenge by developing a training resource for debt advisers combining fuel debt advice, income maximisation, energy efficiency and grant support advice.
Nine Warm Zones were awarded funding from the Government’s Community Energy Efficiency Fund (CEEF) to expand their activities. Over 16,000 Benefit Entitlement Checks were undertaken during the year with an average £2,758 annual increase in income per successful claim.
Work with local authorities continued to expand and NEA worked with more than 100 authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to assist them in developing affordable warmth strategies, supporting Elected Members and Scrutiny Officers to become Energy Champions and to develop actions to tackle fuel poverty with Local Strategic Partnership Health and Well Being initiatives.
2008-2009 Amid a growing consensus that the era of cheap energy was over it became clear that the 2010 target was unattainable. In response, the Government made additional resources available through Warm Front, the Priority Group within the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target and the Community Energy Saving programme. As a result of NEA campaigning, Ofgem worked to correct some of the failings of the competitive market and energy suppliers agreed to increase funding for voluntary social offerings to some £150 million, benefiting around 800,000 households throughout the year.
The Local Government White paper ‘Strong and Prosperous Communities’ set out the Government’s intention to reduce the amount of top-down control from central Government, enabling local authorities and their partners to have greater influence over public services and priorities. In response, NEA developed its proposals for a National Energy Efficiency Scheme. The inefficient model of individual applications and improvement works would be replaced by an area-based approach in which local authorities and partners delivered whole-house energy efficiency solutions prioritised to those communities in the greatest need. The proposal was endorsed by a range of agencies including the Government; The Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties; The Local Government Association; Friends of the Earth and various select committees and All Party Groups.
In advance of the Pre-Budget report NEA called for additional funding to support advice services dealing with fuel debt; extra funding was subsequently made available for debt counselling with Citizens Advice Bureaux receiving extra funding of £10 million to provide impartial advice on debt. DECC also responded to this need by supporting NEA to carry out research into the extent of fuel debt provision, and to develop a fuel debt training module for agency staff and provide a mentoring service for them.
Following extensive research, evidence gathering and campaigning,, NEA made significant progress in influencing Government over the incorporation of low-carbon technologies into Warm Front and the grant maxima was increased to £6,000 for properties off the gas network. NEA worked with a number of Business Supporters to bring new products to market including micro-CHP, fuel cell-CHP, air-source heat pumps and solid wall insulation.