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WM Greener Together blog - Energy crisis

Tackling Fuel Poverty

We held our third Greener Together Forum after we postponed our July meeting due to a period of national mourning.

On what was a very wet and windy night in Coventry, we were thrilled to have 27 people join us at Coventry University and 20 people join online.

The cost of living and energy crisis is causing more people to fall into fuel poverty and the purpose of the forum was to bring together representatives from local councils and people to understand how together we can reach those most in need.

Firstly, we heard from Matthew Eccles, Affordable Warmth Programme Manager at the West Midlands Combined Authority. Matt manages the Sustainable Warmth Competition and the authority’s Warm Homes Saves Lives programme. We heard how the WMCA area scores the worst for fuel poverty amongst all counties with 20.1% in fuel poverty compared to the English average of 13.2%. Coupled with the second-highest percentage of properties in the lower EPC bands (Energy Performance Certificates) tells us why people in the region are struggling.

Through programmes such as the Net Zero Neighbourhood, the Sustainable Warmth Competition and Warm Homes Saves Lives, the CA is working to improve retrofit for the region to ensure people have safe and comfortable homes to live. Retrofitting refers to any improvement work on an existing building to improve its energy efficiency which will hopefully lead to savings.

Helen Langley from Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council presented all its support services available to people. Helen manages Dudley’s Energy Advice Line (DEAL) and is finding that people who are now accessing their services are not their usual advice line users. As more people are pushed into fuel poverty, people are seeking support, but they do not like being told what to do. To combat this, DEAL produced a ‘cost of appliance’ leaflet for people to see how much each appliance costs and make their own decisions on how to save money. In 2021/22, DEAL has assisted over 3,000 households with energy advice, which is a 20% increase on the previous year. The council also ran ‘The Great High Rise Switch Off Competition’ with the 25 high-rise social housing blocks in Dudley. The block which saved the most energy won funding to create its own local community food growing space.

Bret Willers, who is the Head of Climate Change at Coventry City Council, presented on the cost-of-living forum the council held in October which focused on food, energy, inclusion, and education where people need support. Thirty-five organisations attended the forum taking away further actions to lead on. As part of the Sustainable Warmth Competition, the council worked with local artists in Foleshill to produce an animation, created by listening to local families about what they want to see from their homes. The animation will be shared by the council in December 2022.

The groups broke into breakout rooms to discuss three questions:

  1. What do you think needs to happen in your area to address fuel poverty?
  2. Can you share any good practice examples in your area that the authority can collate?
  3. How do you think we can share this information across the region?

There were some difficult questions posed in the breakout rooms and in the following plenary session with the speakers. We will be following up with a briefing note to answer these questions and share all the conversations captured.

Finally, all those who attended in person were able to take a free tree home which is part of the authority’s Right Tree Right Place campaign.

We will be holding four forum meetings in 2023 and are in the process of setting up an Advisory Board to help shape the content of these meetings and to also ensure the meetings are representative, inclusive and action focused.

Thank you to everyone who attended, and we look forward to future forum meetings in the new year.