Presented By:George Simms
Rachel Jones (Act on Energy) and Simon Ross (Marches Energy Agency) gave the board their verbal personal experiences in the delivery of retrofit programmes, particularly local authority delivery schemes and an update on the Sustainable Warmth Programme.
Rachel firstly noted the energy price cap coming in April and then October that would cause an increase in fuel and energy bills had initiated an unprecedented demand in contact from families, younger and single people for services to receive advice and support to enable solutions for the short and longer-term alongside interventions already announced by government on council tax support, rebate on energy bills. Rachel noted that 70% of families had enquired about the existing household support fund administered by local authority’s. Rachel noted the importance of taking householders on a journey due to the concern in unaffordability of householders to heat their homes to prepare for.
Simon provided an update of the Sustainable Warmth Programme funding held within the Marches Energy Agency to provide customer support and offering a ‘hand holding’ role for householders across the WMCA area where the funding flowed from the Midlands Energy Hub. The Marches Energy Agency provided a wealth of support to householders in obtaining new technology and heating controls for people’s homes and where eligibility was not met, further support offered through other initiatives such as home visits for low-cost measures, billing support, negotiations between householders with energy suppliers and loft and cavity wall insulation. Simon outlined the support to local authorities to help with area-based mapping for the next round of Sustainability Warmth Competition funding from 1 April and providing internal briefing notes and monthly reports to move the programme forward. Simon noted that from a householder perspective was surprised by the vulnerability of householders coming forward into the program and the amount of work needed to effectively hand hold them through the process, as well as during and after the install process due to supply chain stresses and workmanship not being as it was post-instal to ensure the technology was usable for householders. Simon noted the importance of local authority representatives to please support us to support your officers who are doing this program to make sure they’ve got all the support they need internally to unblock blockages.
Rachel and Simon offered meetings with Councillors on further information they could provide for supporting their local authority areas and the importance of prioritising the price cap agenda especially with just under £20million of the Sustainable Warmth Fund Programme being received in to the WMCA to ensure it is all spent and to promote for the public who don’t have smart meter readings to take a meter reading prior to the 1 April price cap.
The Chair noted the importance of ‘hand-holding’ as a difference between a job well done and not well done in that people feel looked after in that process where quite often an attitude of fall off can occur.
In response to a question from Councillor Peter Fowler who queried the concern, frustration and fear some members of the public may have to installing smart meters, Rachel noted the importance of householders having a smart meter to accurately record energy use to suppliers whilst householders can monitor and adjust usage accordingly.
In response to a question from the Chair on whether smart meters can tell householders what utility items generate the greatest energy increase, Simon noted by experimenting with different household utility devices to see from the smart meter interface a spiked or slow increase would enable this transparency, however it was unknown if householders were aware to do this with the Chair noting information given to householders to advise would help.
(1) The Chair noted that not all Councils in the West Midlands region were present or represented at the meeting and requested for a letter, e-mail, or press release to be sent to all Constituent and Non-Constituent Authorities to advise of funding available to support residents. The Director of Inclusive Growth and Public Service Reform agreed for the WMCA to work with Rachel and Simon to promote this.