Big Energy Saving Network 2018-19

This year we are helping to deliver Big Energy Saving Network (BESN) sessions and advice to frontline workers and consumers, between October 2018 and March 2019. These are free sessions for community groups and for frontline workers and volunteers supporting Southampton or Hampshire residents who have concerns about their energy bills.

These sessions will:
• Make people aware of the savings that can be made by switching energy tariff or energy company.
• Provide information about help available for people struggling to pay their gas and electricity bills.
• Advise people about how to save money by being more energy efficient.

You can find a selection of BESN materials and resources here, including the consumer guide to help you understand energy and make savings here.

To find out more, book a session for your community group or frontline workers or get energy advice contact us:
• Freephone 0800 804 8601
• Local 02380 336 172
• Email keepwarm@environmentcentre.com

Smart Meters De-mystified

Most people in the UK have heard of smart meters thanks to Gaz & Leccy, Kirstie and Phil’s Smart Energy Tour, offers from their energy suppliers or anecdotes from friends and family who have had one installed. But, while the term is familiar, many may not know exactly what smart meters are, what they do or if these meters are the right choice for their household. Here we’ve responded to some of your most frequently asked questions:

I’ve been offered a smart meter. Do I have to accept?

No. By 2020, every home in Great Britain will be offered a smart meter, but customers do not have to accept. If you change your mind in the future, you will still be able to have one installed. And if your meter needs to be replaced in the future, then it will likely be a smart meter that is installed.

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How much does it cost to have a smart meter installed?

Not a penny! Energy suppliers will provide and fit them for free by trained engineers.

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Will I still have to provide meter readings to my energy supplier?

Smart meters take the hassle out of providing regular meter readings to your supplier. The readings are provided automatically and you can set how often you want that data sent to your supplier. The minimum frequency is monthly but you can ask to have the data sent daily or even half-hourly.

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How can smart meters save me money?

They put an end to estimated bills, which means you won’t be overpaying. They also make it easier for you to control your energy consumption with the wireless In-Home Display, which can show you how much energy you’re using in real time. You may realise that an appliance you use frequently is energy inefficient and choose to upgrade it or you may find that lowering the thermostat by one degree doesn’t make a difference to your comfort but does make a big difference to your bills.

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What does the In-Home Display (IHD) show?

The display shows how much energy you’re using and what it’s costing you in pounds and pence. You can view your energy consumption in real time or over a specified period (from a few hours to several months), with graphs of the data making it easier to understand. To keep track of your energy usage, you can also set alerts to warn you when you’re approaching a limit, either in kWh or £s. The engineer who installs the meter can talk you through how to use the display.

For prepayment customers, the display also shows how much credit is left on the meter, the emergency credit balance and the debt balance, if there is one. You may even be able to top-up via the display!

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Can I have a smart meter installed if I have a prepayment meter?

Yes! Prepayment customers may also find that smart meters make it easier for them to top-up their meter since they’ll be able to add money by phone, online or through an app, in addition to their current payment methods.

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Can I have a smart meter installed if I’m renting?

Yes, if you pay for your gas and/or electricity, although it’s best to clear that with the landlord first.

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Can I get smart meters if I have solar panels?

Officially, yes. Unofficially, it depends. EON and NPower will not install smart meters in homes with solar panels at the moment. Other suppliers, like British Gas, will fit them but some customers have experienced billing issues and needed to have the smart meters removed. It comes down to a technical problem with first generation smart meters, where the meter struggles to read the amount of energy generated by solar panels. This issue is being addressed and Smart Energy GB says, “in the future, your in-home display may also be able to reflect the energy you’re generating yourself, such as from solar panels.”

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If I have a smart meter installed, will it send or sell my information to companies other than my energy supplier?

No. Your smart meter collects information about how much gas and electricity you’ve used, which it sends securely to your supplier for billing. The meter doesn’t store any other personal information, like your name, address or bank details.

Energy suppliers need your permission to use your data for marketing. It is also your choice whether you want to share that energy usage data with other organisations, such as switching sites. All of your consumer rights are strongly protected by law and the use of your data is controlled under General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).

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Can smart meters cause fires?

This concern comes from a Watchdog programme which suggested that improperly installed smart meters caused several house fires, which is understandably worrying. However, as long as the smart meter is installed by a qualified engineer, there’s no more risk of fire than from standard analogue meters. The smart meters themselves have undergone rigorous safety tests and comply with UK and EU product safety laws.

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What if I want to switch energy suppliers?

At the moment when you switch some smart meter functionality may be lost temporarily if you have a first generation meter, also known as the meter going ‘dumb’, but this doesn’t prevent you from switching to a new supplier. Companies are aware of the issue and are working to ensure that customers can retain the ‘smart’ features of a smart meter. Often new suppliers can update the old meters remotely to keep those meters smart, and if not they can replace the meter for you at no extra charge. Customers shouldn’t have a problem with the second generation smart meters, and the aim is that all customers will be able to switch between suppliers with no loss of functionality from their smart meters.

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Do I need a strong wifi or mobile signal for my smart meter to send readings to my energy supplier?

Smart meters do not use the Internet and you don’t need wifi to have a smart meter. First generation meters use a SIM card to communicate and second generation meters use a dedicated wireless communications system all of their own (known as the Data Communications Company network). This does mean that some customers, particularly those in high rise flats or rural areas, may experience poor signals, causing the smart meters to go ‘dumb’, but the network aims to cover 99% of households in Britain by the end of 2020.

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A smart meter installer identified safety issues in my home (e.g., faulty boiler, dangerous wiring and fuse boxes). Will the supplier rectify those problems?

When engineers install a smart meter, they will do a free gas safety check and visual inspection of the electricity supply. They can spot and alert you to problems that you may not have been aware of otherwise. If they identify problems, they are obligated to take action, for example by condemning a boiler. It will then be the householder’s responsibility to rectify the issues.

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Will suppliers use my data to charge me more during peak times?

Maybe, but it should be cheaper at other times, so you can save money by using electricity and gas outside of peak times. Energy suppliers can only charge prices customers have agreed to, and you will know if you have signed up to a ‘time of use’ tariff.

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What if I am bombarded with calls, texts, letters or emails about getting a smart meter even after I’ve refused?

The government has said that “Ofgem will take up complaints with energy suppliers for customers who feel they are being bullied or coerced into getting a smart meter.” You can find out more on the Ofgem website.

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Hitting the Cold Spots Winter Launch 2018

Now in its eighth year, Hitting the Cold Spots continues to help Hampshire residents stay warm and well. Being able to keep warm is vital for everyone but particularly for young children, older people and those with health conditions.

With the onset of colder weather you may be getting concerned about how you will manage in the winter months, but Hitting the Cold Spots is here to help with advice and practical support. You can contact us directly and we also welcome referrals from friends, family and professionals. Hitting the Cold Spots is run by the Environment Centre (tEC) on behalf of Hampshire County Council.

How can we help?
The service provides detailed advice over the phone or via email for anyone wanting information on: heating systems, insulation, energy bill worries, the Warm Home Discount and switching tariff.

We offer additional practical support for eligible owner-occupier households including: home visits from our experienced advisors, help to access funding for boiler repairs and replacements, temporary heaters for those without heating and referrals for benefits and debt advice, home safety visits and healthy living services.

How can you contact us?
You can speak to the Hitting the Cold Spots team via our Freephone advice line 0800 804 8601 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm), dedicated email account: staywarm@environmentcentre.com or at community events across the county.

If you would like us to give a talk to your community group, train your staff and volunteers or send copies of our promotional materials, please let us know. Find out more and view resources on our website: www.environmentcentre.com/projects/hitting-the-cold-spots and www.hants.gov.uk/coldspots

Please note the above services are subject to availability and conditions may apply. Hitting the Cold Spots is funded by Hampshire County Council.

Southampton Healthy Homes Winter Launch 2018

Today we had the winter launch for our Southampton Healthy Homes service, in partnership with Southampton City Council. Organisations from across the city attended to find out more about the project, including our Advice in Southampton partners: Citizens Advice Southampton, No Limits, Age UK Southampton, CLEAR, EU Welcome and Rose Road Association.

Councillor Satvir Kaur and Dr Debbie Chase, from Public Health, kindly opened the event speaking about the impact of living in a cold home and the importance of keeping warm and well. During the breakout session we had very useful discussions on engaging with local communities, supporting vulnerable clients and overcoming barriers to accessing services. The feedback from these sessions will help us ensure we are best meeting the needs of our clients and local residents.

Southampton Healthy Homes provides information, advice and guidance to residents on how to keep warm and well at home. This includes switching tariffs, help to apply for the Warm Home Discount or deal with fuel debt, benefit checks, support to apply for insulation or heating improvements grants and free draught proofing materials. In addition temporary heating will be available to households where their heating has failed.

You can access the project via a free phone advice line, dedicated email account or find us at community events across the city. More in-depth support will be available through home visits and office appointments. If you would like us to give a talk to your community group, train your staff and volunteers or send copies of our promotional materials, please let us know.

Find out more and get advice by Freephone: 0800 804 8601 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm), email: keepwarm@environmentcentre.com or online: www.environmentcentre.com/healthy-homes

Brace Yourself. Winter Is Coming.

The summer’s scorching heatwave seems to have wiped freezing temperatures from our minds. But the brutally cold Beast from the East from earlier this year could make a return – possibly as early as this month! Though nothing is certain, it’s best to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. So here are some of our toasty tips to make your winter a touch warmer:

Snug as a bug in a rug

  1. Layer up: be it clothing or blankets, warm air gets trapped between the layers, helping you stay warm.
  2. Drink hot beverages: tea, coffee, hot chocolate or even broth will warm you from the inside out.
  3. Keep cosy with slippers: not only will they keep your feet warm, they can keep you safer around your home by improving grip while also saving your socks from excessive wear-and-tear.
  4. Change your covers: look for a duvet with a high tog rating (1 tog is the coolest, 15 tog is the warmest).
  5. Use a hot water bottle or microwaveable heating pad: place it under the covers before you hop into bed or keep it on your lap for more concentrated heat.
  6. Snuggle a loved one – don’t forget about Fluffy or Spot!

Trap the heat

  1. Open your curtains when the sun comes out to soak up the radiant heat, but make sure to close them at dusk to stop the heat from escaping when the temperatures start to drop.
  2. Double your drapes: adding a second layer of heavy fabric to your curtains is a great way to reduce the amount of heat that’s lost through your windows.
  3. Wrap your windows: consider secondary glazing if you have single pane windows. All you need is the film, a hair dryer and a pair of scissors.
  4. Detect the draughts: find and seal any gaps under your doors and around your windows, keyholes and letterboxes and unused chimneys.
  5. Insulate your home: 25% of heat can be lost from an uninsulated roof! So consider loft insulation (300mm recommended) to slow that heat loss.

Get more out of the heat

  1. Be reflective: add reflective radiator panels to bounce heat away from the wall and into the room.
  2. Radiator care: if your gas central heating isn’t providing enough warmth, try bleeding your radiators to release trapped air or, if you notice the fluid is brown or the heating is noisy, flush the system to get rid of gunk and allow the heat to distribute more efficiently.
  3. Remove obstructions: reposition your sofa or other furniture away from radiators to feel the full effect of the heat from the radiators.
  4. Cook at home: not only will you get a hot meal, you can also use the residual heat from cooking to warm your home.
  5. Control your heating: timers, thermostats and TRVs can help you schedule your heating needs, heat only the rooms you use and keep your home at a suitable temperature – all while saving you money on your heating bills.

Still cold?

  1. Keep moving: put away laundry, do the washing up or run around to raise your body temperature.
  2. Be sociable: visit friends, family, a faith organisation or a local community centre to take advantage of the central heating instead of staying in a cold home.
  3. Broken boiler? Confusing heating controls? Expensive heating bills? Call us for free advice and information tailored to suit your situation.

Energy Company Obligation (ECO3)

The current ECO2t scheme ended on the 30th September, and an adapted ECO3 scheme will run from 1st October 2018 to 31st March 2022.  Here is a summary of the public consultation and government response on the changes to ECO, which are available here. The biggest change to the scheme is that the full focus of funding will be on Affordable Warmth, for low income and vulnerable households, to help the Government meet their fuel poverty commitments. This means that there will be household eligibility criteria for all measures, and these have also been updated.

Another change to the scheme is that the supplier obligation threshold will decrease over this time, to 200,000 customers from April 2019 and to 150,000 customers from April 2020, so more suppliers will need to provide ECO funding. With the introduction of Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) in April 2018, the ECO scheme has been updated so that landlords can’t use ECO to meet minimum standards, apart from the hard to treat measures of solid wall insulation and renewable heating.

The Local Authority Flexible Eligibility (ECO Flex) element of Affordable Warmth, which was introduced with ECO2t in April 2017, will continue with the percentage of obligation available rising from 10% to 25%. Deemed scores, which were also introduced with ECO2t apart from for district heating, will continue to be set by Ofgem, although the 30% uplift to all scores is removed.

Eligibility criteria

  • Means-tested benefits (see below) as before
  • There are no longer income thresholds for Universal Credit and Tax Credits
  • Disability Benefits (see below) are now eligible
  • Child Benefits and Armed Forces Benefits (see below) are also eligible, with equivalised income threshold*, and self-declaration*
DWP means-tested benefits DWP Disability Benefits Armed Forces Benefits
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Income Support (IS)
  • Pension Guarantee Credit
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Universal Credit
  • Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
  • Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
  • Attendance Allowance (AA)
  • Carer’s Allowance
  • Severe Disablement Allowance
  • Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefits
  • War Pensions Mobility Supplement
  • Constant Attendance Allowance
  • Armed Forces Independence Payment

Energy efficiency measures

As well as changes to eligibility, ECO3 also includes changes to measures delivered. Broken heating system repairs or replacements will be capped at 35,000 systems per year, though other heating upgrades (including heating controls) are allowed to be delivered outside of the cap, and the repair of boilers and broken electric storage heaters will be limited to 5% of each of the supplier’s obligations. There will be a 400% uplift for replacing broken boilers and 240% uplift for broken storage heaters. Solid wall insulation installs will be capped at 17,000 homes per year.

To protect rural households, the Government will require suppliers to meet at least 15% of their obligation by delivering measures in rural areas, broken oil boilers are allowed to be repaired or replaced and there will be a 35% off-gas uplift for insulation measures. Ground source heat pumps are an eligible ECO measure even if they receive the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), as long as obligated energy suppliers do not receive the RHI payments, but other technologies are not eligible if receiving RHI. In addition, up to 10% of a supplier’s obligation can be met through innovation* and up to 10% can be met through in-situ performance*.

Measures allowed in privately owned housing:

  • Insulation
  • Broken heating repairs and replacements (doesn’t include coal, but does include oil)
  • First time central heating (doesn’t include oil, and if replacing electric storage heaters these must be broken or inefficient)
  • Inefficient heating replacements (doesn’t include coal and oil), alongside certain insulation measures (wall insulation, Room in Roof insulation, flat roof insulation, insulation of a mobile home and under floor insulation, but not loft insulation)
  • Efficient heating replacements if replaced by renewables
  • District heating

Measures allowed in social housing:

  • E, F and G rated properties are eligible for insulation and first time central heating (doesn’t include oil, and if replacing electric storage heaters these must be broken or inefficient) but no other heating repairs or replacements
  • Prior insulation requirements will continue to apply where the FTCH is a district heating connection
  • Innovation measures will be eligible for D-G rated properties

Measures allowed in privately rented housing:

  • Tenants need to meet Affordable Warmth eligibility criteria
  • A-E rated properties are eligible for the same measures as privately owned properties (insulation, first time central heating, inefficient heating replacements, efficient heating replaced by renewables and district heating) apart from broken heating repairs and replacements, as this is the responsibility of the landlord
  • Properties that do not meet the minimum standard i.e. F and G rated properties are not eligible for grants for most measures, apart from solid wall insulation and renewable heating systems
  • Green Deal loans are available to landlords looking to improve the energy efficiency of their properties to meet minimum standards, from the Green Deal Finance Company

ECO Flex

Up to 25% of the supplier obligation can be met through measures delivered under Local Authority ECO Flex, and there is a 25% uplift on measures delivered to F and G rated properties.

Solid wall insulation in-fill

  • This will remain largely the same as under ECO2t
  • Under Affordable Warmth, in-fill for SWI and district heating is available if 66% of eligible households receive either of these measures. If so, an adjacent property can also receive the same measure, as long as the number of these ‘in-fill’ properties does not exceed 34% in that area
  • Under ECO Flex, in-fill is allowed to count for up to 50% of the eligible households, so that local authorities can manage residents’ expectations and avoid situations where a decision could be perceived as inequitable, for example if one household doesn’t receive a measure due to them not living adjacent to an eligible household

*Guidance documents are due to be published with a further explanation of these elements.

No Idling Campaign 2018

Working with partners Southampton City Council and Global Action Plan (GAP) we organised and delivered no-idling events across Southampton between February and September. We had a supportive response to the campaign and our experiences of engaging with drivers on the street were positive and effective.

We ran events in the city centre, outside schools, with bus drivers, and at the port and ferry terminal. In total we achieved:

  • 45 Air Quality Champions trained and supported
  • 275 drivers engaged
  • 89.8% of drivers switched off their engines
  • 105 pledges to not idle in the future
  • 190 promotional materials distributed to the public
  • social media posts reached 60,265 and had 2,067 engagements
  • campaign advertised on local radio, TV and newspapers
  • 4 billboards over 8 weeks, as well as poster boards and electronic road signs

Air Quality Champions were fully trained in approaching and chatting to drivers in a friendly, informative and non-judgmental way to persuade them of the benefits of not idling. Our approach was to invite drivers to join the campaign and switch off their engines when stationary, as many drivers do not realise that idling is bad for air pollution and their health, and often believe some common idling myths. Several drivers mentioned having seen posters about the campaign and hearing about it on the radio too.

For more information and to register your interest in becoming an Air Quality Champion, please email cleanair@environmentcentre.com. We can then let you know about upcoming dates for training and events.

No-Idling myth-busting

  • Idling is a significant contributor to local air pollution. It is less polluting to turn your engine off and restart it after a minute or longer than to leave your engine running.
  • Modern batteries need less engine running time to work and don’t need the engine on constantly to keep them charged.
  • Idling dirties your engine with incomplete combustion increasing wear and tear. Maintaining your vehicle is important for preventing breakdowns and reducing air pollution. Modern cars have much better ignitions and can be turned on and off without unnecessary wear on the engine.
  • Catalytic converters retain their heat for about 25 minutes after an engine is switched off. You don’t need to keep the engine switched on for them to work properly.
  • It can take up to an hour for an engine to cool down. Turning off your engine but keeping the ignition on and the fan blowing will provide warm air for some time.
  • Over 50% of Particulate Matter (PM) in cities can come from taxis and cars.
  • Walking or cycling on roads with less traffic can reduce your exposure to air pollutants by 50% or even more.

YOU are the key to cleaner air!

No-idling myth-busting facts from our partners at Global Action Plan (GAP).

Are you eligible for the Warm Home Discount 2018-19?

What is the Warm Home Discount?

The Warm Home Discount is a scheme providing eligible households with a £140 electricity bill discount for winter 2018-19. This discount is available to credit and pre-payment customers, providing your supplier is part of the scheme and you meet their eligibility criteria. The scheme is open to applications now and it is worth applying early to ensure you get it.

Who is eligible?

There is a Core Group who are automatically eligible and don’t need to apply. These are householders who were receiving Guaranteed Pension Credit on 8th July 2018. If you decide to switch energy supplier after this date and before you receive the Warm Home Discount, you should expect it from your previous supplier. However, if you have been awarded Guaranteed Pension Credit after the 8th of July 2018 then you will need to apply for the Warm Home Discount yourself.

If you don’t meet the criteria for the Core Group you may be eligible under the Broader Group and will also need to apply yourself. Eligibility criteria varies slightly between energy suppliers but is usually based on low income, means tested benefits and a vulnerability in the household e.g. disability or child under 5. You can check the individual eligibility criteria with your energy supplier or by clicking the links below. If you apply but then decide to switch before you receive the Warm Home Discount, you will need to reapply with your new supplier.

Which suppliers are part of the scheme?

* The energy companies indicated with the asterisk only offer the Warm Home Discount to the Core Group.

How to apply?

You need to apply directly with your energy supplier, you can find their contact details through the website links above. Depending on the supplier you can apply online, by phone or by post.

If you have any further questions about the Warm Home Discount or would like more advice about reducing your bills and keeping warm you can phone us on Freephone 0800 804 8601.

Plastic Free July

Our intern Christie volunteers for Surfers Against Sewage, and can see first hand the impact that plastic pollution is having on the marine environment. Here she shares some tips on how you can reduce your plastic use and help prevent this problem.

As plastic pollution has become such a dire problem, there are lots of campaigns to help people reduce plastic and waste and live more ethically. Some of the tEC staff are currently taking part in Plastic Free July, a challenge to either reduce disposable plastic use or remove it from your lifestyle completely for a month, which will hopefully form changes that will continue long after July is over. If you are interested in curbing your plastic use, here are some tips on how to get started:

  1. BYO (bring your own) Reusables: Put together a plastic free kit of essentials that you can carry around with you such as a canvas bag for shopping, metal, glass or bamboo straws, refillable water bottle and travel mug.
  2. Make your own meals: Cooking from scratch can sound daunting but once you’ve learned a few meals you’ll never go back- it’s cheaper, healthier and tastier- plus there’s no plastic packaging!
  3. Switch up your wardrobe: Plastic microfibers from synthetic clothing find their way from the washing machine to the ocean and the water we drink! Try converting to items made from natural cotton, hemp or linen.
  4. Use bars of soap: Solid, unpackaged bars are becoming more popular for everything from dish soap and hand wash to shampoo and conditioner, they are often longer lasting and have no plastic packaging.
  5. Switch to recyclable/compostable items: Bamboo toothbrushes, stainless steel razor, natural bath sponges, so many items were around long before their plastic replacements and switching back to them stops the risk of them becoming more plastic pollution.

As reducing waste and plastic is given more and more attention, it’s becoming easier to find alternatives. To get started, search for your nearest ethical, zero-waste shop to buy plastic-free alternatives and package-free products.

Southampton Clean Air Zone (CAZ) consultation

Southampton City Council and New Forest District Council are consulting on their proposals for a Clean Air Zone. It’s time to have your say.

The closing date for feedback is Thursday 13th September. Paper copies of the consultation are available and there will be public drop-in events where you can find out more information or ask questions.