City Council creates Energy Advice Officer role to help Council Tenants save energy
Oxford City Council and referrals agents
The Council employs two energy advice officers who visit social housing tenants to help them keep their energy bills as low as possible.
Fuel poverty can be defined as where people are struggling to afford to heat their homes to a reasonable temperature – it is caused by a combination of high energy costs, low income and poor energy efficiency of the home. Council tenants are responsible for their own energy bills and tenants on lower incomes are naturally at risk.
The Council has a strong commitment to reducing fuel poverty in the city, particularly in its own housing. To meet this commitment, the Council recruited two energy advice officers to visit tenants in their homes. One of these positions has been made permanent due to the impressive results of the energy advice team in the first 2 years of the project.
The Energy Advice Officers have visited (or tried to) every Council home to advise on the following:
- Energy saving behaviour – how can tenants save energy in small ways such as turning things off, understanding their heating system better etc.
- Energy saving measures in the building – referrals for boiler upgrades and heating controls, insulating the loft and draught proofing can all make a difference
- Energy bills – a range of heating upgrade projects, advising tenants on meter and tariff changes and engaging with heating upgrades as appropriate.
Outcomes and benefits delivered:
From 1 April 2018 to 31 March 2019 , of the Council’s 7,579 properties, 758 (~10%) received an Energy Advice visit. Energy Advice Officers (EAOs) have now visited or tried to visit all properties. Case studies are included here as many of the tenants are very vulnerable and require a high level of support.
This year, savings to tenants from the service so far are estimated to be £120,380.
During 2018/2019 Energy Advice Officers made 4,463 energy and money saving recommendations to council tenants, including:
- helping 45 vulnerable tenants access the £140 Warm Home Discount
- advising a further 287 tenants of their eligibility for the Warm Home Discount and giving guidance on how to apply
- referring 297 tenants for further help, for example to our repairs, tenancy management or tenancy sustainment teams
- installing 162 electricity monitors to help fuel poor households keep track of their electricity use
- conducting 117 extended visits where the household is experiencing complex problems such as energy debt, chronic health conditions and fuel poverty
- arranging loft top-up insulation for 53 households
- putting 27 tenants with chronic health, mobility or other conditions onto the Priority Service Register, enabling them to get support in the event of a power cut
- helping 19 of the most vulnerable tenants switch energy suppliers, with an average saving of £93
- advising another 302 tenants that they could save money by switching suppliers, with an average saving of £184.
Case Studies, 2018/2019
Tenant contacted Energy Advice Officers as she wanted her prepayment meter moved. She has severe mobility issues meaning she couldn’t top up herself and could be left without power if she couldn’t get someone else to top up for her. The EAOs walked her through the process of changing to direct debit meter, involving 3 visits to arrange appointments, confirm meter readings, etc. During the meter change process there was an accidental power outage which left the tenant unable to use her panic alarm, phone or stair lift. EAOs managed to negotiate compensation of £160 from the supplier for the disruption and distress caused. Tenant now has a direct debit meter and so does not need to rely on others to ensure she has power and heating.
Tenant was referred to EAOs by her tenancy management officer. She suffers from chronic illness, exacerbated by low temperatures, and was struggling to afford energy costs (tenant reported last winter she had to choose between heating and eating). EAO arranged for faulty radiator to be repaired, loft to be insulated, advised on reducing heat loss and installed electricity monitor. It came to light that the tenant was in debt to energy company and therefore could not switch to a cheaper provider until the debt was repaid. As the tenant could not afford debt repayments on top of heating costs due to very low income, EAO applied for debt relief from British Gas Energy Trust. Although the application was unsuccessful, with the support of the EAO, the tenant has now reduced her debt and switched to a new supplier, saving £273 per year. The EAO is working with the Council’s contractors to get cavity wall insulation installed on the gable end of the property to reduce heat loss and increase comfort further.
In an evaluation survey, 210 responses were received from 1800 surveys, a response rate of 12%. There was a generally positive response for the service related questions too. 88% found the visit excellent or good, and 88% also found that the visit resolved their energy issues. Responses also indicated that many tenants are changing their simple behaviours in the home to make modest energy savings which keep waste to a minimum although this was less marked. Officers are now working harder to try and access insulation, heating upgrades and other energy efficiency measures by building up links with Council building professionals.
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