In this year it was formally acknowledged that the Government’s intention to eradicate fuel poverty by 2016 would not be met and therefore a new legislative framework was to be introduced. This was also the year that Warm Front closed, the Green Deal started to take shape alongside other consumer levy assistance programmes, and NEA sought to integrate the new initiatives with the Wales Government Programmes and consider the relevance to the forthcoming review of the Northern Ireland electricity company levy.
Some expected policy developments took longer to emerge and the Government’s response to Professor Hills’ review of fuel poverty was not published until July 2013 with the announcement that a new definition was to be adopted.
In this year, we changed our NEA strapline from Campaigning for Warm Homes to Action for Warm Homes to reflect the work we do to drive change across all areas: community engagement and delivery; innovation and evaluation; training and education and campaigning and policy analysis.
NEA’s political engagement intensified in 2012-13. The closing of previous energy efficiency schemes (CERT, CESP and Warm Front) and the commencement of the Green Deal and the Energy Company Obligation, increasing energy prices, changes to the energy retail market and the emergence of the UK Government’s primary legislation to bring about fundamental changes to the incentive regime for low carbon generators have all enhanced consideration of energy affordability and, specifically, fuel poverty as a key political issue.
NEA worked hard to galvanise and capitalise on this upturn in interest. Media work, seminars and events ensured that thousands of stakeholders were directly informed whilst there were 140 million opportunities to see and hear our messages through print, broadcast and online media.
In delivering our strategic aims we ran an incredible 200 projects over the course of the year in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, many involving new partners.
NEA promoted, and helped develop, the objectives of the Energy Bill Revolution campaign and helped gain parliamentary and public support for recycling revenues from environmental taxes such as EU-ETS and the Carbon Floor Price back into energy efficiency programmes to tackle fuel poverty.
NEA also participated in the European Commission-funded Semanco project, which aimed to provide semantic tools for those involved in urban planning to enable them to assess different methods of reducing CO2 emissions; to structure energy-related data held in distributed sources and diverse formats; classify buildings for energy analysis; visualise urban energy consumption; predict future energy demand and provide appropriate energy indicators for local authorities.
In order to engage children in energy efficiency, NEA worked with 24 schools as part of the REFLOAT and PEEPS projects, creatively teaching children about the benefits of energy efficiency, engaging their enthusiasm and providing them with knowledge that can be communicated in their home environment. Feedback from the schools was very positive, with some setting up ECO clubs and achieving Green Flag status.
NEA Cymru continued to inform, train and advice local stakeholders to assist fuel poor communities in Wales. This included being part of the Advice Agency Network and issuing quarterly fuel debt bulletins. NEA Cymru also established the first stakeholder group to support the Welsh Government’s ‘Nest’ fuel poverty scheme and to increase engagement with organisations working directly with communities. NEA Cymru delivered two events showcasing examples of community collective switching initiatives to increase understanding of how these might be replicated in Wales and contribute to the alleviation of fuel poverty. More than 90 attended and as a result, NEA Cymru became a strategic partner in a project to drive a collective switching project forward in Wales.
Northern Ireland continued to experience the highest level of fuel poverty in the UK at 42% of households affected. In 2012 NEA NI was appointed to chair of the Fuel Poverty Coalition which includes over 160 organisations across the private, public, voluntary and statutory sectors. In terms of project work this focused on the continued Northern Exposure project which directly assisted over 300 households with energy efficiency measures including insulation and central heating.
The Affordable Warmth Campaign which had a focus on older people concluded in 2012-13. Funding from the Atlantic Philanthropies enabled NEA NI to provide a qualitative piece of research which encapsulated the reality of living in fuel poverty. We also developed an advocacy network of trained advisers and supported older people to become more confident in managing their fuel use.