Business Supporters Group

Annual Review 2019-20

The interests of our Business Supporters Group (BSG) span the range of the energy sector and encompass utilities, installers, energy service providers, manufacturers, distribution network operators, suppliers, designers and consultancies. NEA prides itself on being able to offer its Business Supporters Group members the opportunity to engage with other NEA members, and to access excellent opportunities to network with and influence a wide range of key policy makers, future stakeholders and customers. This includes ministers, MPs, Peers and Senedd Members. In 2019-20 BSG members were able to take advantage of policy briefing meetings held by NEA and to also attend our annual BSG dinner. Members often host these meetings and are also offered the opportunity to shape the meeting agendas and to present. Here are some of the highlights:

Four policy briefing meetings

1 May 2019: Kidderminster

The meeting took place in Kidderminster where members were welcomed by Manny Puletti, UK Sales Director at Intergas Boilers. A NEA policy update from NEA’s Policy Manager, Matt Copeland was provided and covered 3 areas: policy progress, recent policy developments NEA had engaged with and NEA’s response to the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR). Ian Henderson from Boiler Plan UK, gave a member update focussing on the domestic boiler market and was followed by NEA’s Technical Manager, Michael Hamer, who gave an update on the current projects the team are working on through ECO3’s technical and innovation strands. Finally, a members discussion around the ECO3 Innovation strand was led by Matt Copeland, NEA’s Policy Manager, and focussed in on what members at the meeting were delivering. Discussions focussed in particular around changing energy behaviour of customers and the use of social housing as a positive route for innovation.

26 June 2019: Newcastle-upon-Tyne

NEA’s Policy and Research Director, Peter Smith provided members with an update on the ongoing policy work via video and included an insight into NEA’s Integrating Policy into Practice initiative. A member update followed from Simon Peat, Director of Project Better Energy with a focus on battery storage within domestic homes. Jess Cook, NEA’s Project and Development Manager, gave an update to the group on Water and Fuel Poverty and introduced the new work undertaken by NEA, commissioned by Northumbrian Water focussing on water poverty. The Ofgem Consumer Vulnerability Strategy 2025 was presented by Denis Berg, a senior manager at Ofgem. This was based on the consultation out at the time and informed members to focus on the set questions based on affordability and regulation. The final presentation was given by David Lynch, the Regional Development Manager at Energy Systems Catapult. This presentation was an overview of the work being undertaken in Newcastle with the city council around decarbonisation of heat in domestic properties.

30 October 2019: Oxford

Matt Baker, Consumer Vulnerability Manager at British Gas welcomed members to their office before a policy update from Peter Smith and Matt Copeland from NEA’s Policy Team. This presentation recognised that Maria Wardrobe, Director of Communications was leaving NEA after 26 years with the charity. Peter then gave a summary of the budget recommendations from NEA. A presentation from SSEN was delivered from Alison Dean, Stakeholder Engagement Manager, which looked at the Young Carers Project working with NEA and four water companies. This concluded with information of their new community flex scheme. Two new member updates were given by firstly Martin Rinvolucri, Ambassador at Matilda’s Planet and Crispin Jones, Managing Director at Arbed am Byth. Following the meeting the Friends Against Scams training session was delivered to members by Meredith Fowler, British Gas.

20 January 2020: London

The January BSG meeting and annual dinner was held alongside our Heat Heroes Awards event in London. Members had the opportunity to attend the event at the House of Commons and celebrate the Heat Hero winners and the work they have undertaken to support people in fuel poverty. Dinner followed at London restaurant where members could continue their networking. 

Networking and discussion with experts

Fuel Poverty Forums

Starting in April 2019 our Fuel Poverty Forums were delivered across regions in England and Wales. Supported by Utilita these events enable NEA’s project development coordinators to engage with local organisations to keep them up to date with our work in the region and also involve them in our policy and campaigns activities.

Heat Heroes

The Heat Heroes award ceremony took place on 29 January 2020 in London with the support from Wales and West Utilities, SGN, Northern Gas Networks and Affordable Warmth Solutions. This event celebrates those individuals who have made a significant contribution in helping people living in fuel poverty in their local community, either at work or in volunteer activities outside the workplace. Fourteen winners and three highly commended from England and Wales were chosen.

A winners’ ceremony was held to celebrate their success and give an opportunity for the Heat Heroes to meet their MPs and highlight the work they are undertaking within their constituency to tackle fuel poverty.

NEA Annual Conference

The Annual Conference took place on the 16– 18 September in Sheffield and was sponsored by SSE Energy Services. 247 delegates were registered to attend and along with SSE, 27 other organisations exhibited at the conference. The programme was structured around the theme of Mission: Possible? and focused on one or more of NEA’s themed advocacy priorities including: consistently supporting the most vulnerable; prevention is better than cure; including vulnerable households in clean growth and innovation; and enhancing co-operation across the nations. A winners’ ceremony was held to celebrate their success and give an opportunity for the Heat Heroes to meet their MPs and highlight the work they are undertaking within their constituency to tackle fuel poverty.

“Excellent networking and information-sharing.
Thank you, so informative and I’m spurred on in my role!”

Conference Attendee

Informing others in the sector about your activities

Fuel Poverty Awareness Day

On Friday 29 November 2019 our Fuel Poverty Awareness Day campaign was a huge success. On social media alone, there were 1100 tweets in total on the subject, coming from around 530 different accounts. At one stage we were number 22 ‘trending’ topic in the UK, and our campaign messages on the day potentially reached over 5 million just through Twitter alone.

Social Media

In 2019 – 2020 we continued to utilise our social media platforms as one of the main ways of communicating our work to members across the UK. We use Twitter as a prevalent way to keep members engaged with NEA’s ongoing work and campaigns throughout the year. We also launched our Warm and Safe Homes page on Facebook to ensure the general public are aware of our services. Some of the highlights include; nearly 5000 followers on twitter with various influential followers, the launch of our campaign to extend and expand the Warm Home Discount scheme was one of our highest performing content on Facebook and our WASH Facebook page has been seen by around 73,000 users.

Taking action to combat fuel poverty

Affordable Warmth Solutions continued to support the Malcolm Wicks Bursary Scheme and we began a new round for students in the areas surrounding Birmingham.

British Gas supported NEA’s Warm and Safe Homes Advice Service which enables the general public to access energy efficiency and income maximisation advice along with other assistance regarding home energy.

EDF continued their support with the Improving Energy Efficiency in Communities project which works to reduce fuel poverty across England

Northern Gas Networks, Wales and West Utilities, SGN and Affordable Warmth Solutions partnered with NEA to host the Heat Heroes Awards.

Northern Powergrid worked with NEA to host a DSO workshop which took an in depth look at vulnerability within society and how we can work together in the future to address fuel poverty within certain vulnerability categories.

ScottishPower continued to support NEA’s Income Maximisation and Claim support service which enables householders to maximise their income, helping to manage household bills. They also support NEA’s longest running project HEAT in Coventry.

SSE, with their support the Take Control and EmPOWERing Communities Cymru projects continued which provided advice and support on fuel debt for vulnerable residents across England and Wales.

UK Power Networks supported with a number of projects such as Warm Minds, which supports those living with mental health illnesses and their carers, Empowered by Energy which supports refugee and asylum seekers and NEA’s WASH advice service.

Utilita, supported with sponsorship of NEA’s forums delivered across England and Wales. This allows NEA to engage with local organisations to keep them up to date with our work and also involved in our policy and campaigns work.

Helping NEA to raise money with community fundraising

The Nation’s Biggest Housewarming

In February 2020, many of our BSG members took part in The Nation’s Biggest Housewarming event. This event aims to raise awareness of fuel poverty amongst fellow colleagues and the general public. Over 60 organisations took part in this UK wide event which saw various baked goods shared alongside raising an impressive amount of money. Organisations pulled out all the stops to come up with creative fundraising events. Some examples included building the best chocolate house, wear your pyjamas to workday and other cooking challenges. A hamper was given for the prize draw winner which included many tasty treats for the winners.

Social media was the central hub with attendees sharing their photographs of the various cakes, biscuits, and deserts on offer. Once again, another successful year for The Nation’s Biggest Housewarming.  Thank you to all of those who took part in the event and we hope you will join us again for another fantastic event next year, all be it a little different.

Interested in becoming a Business Supporters Group member and taking advantage of the benefits outlined here? Contact Alice Dalgleish.