National Energy Action, Eaga and Changeworks

Can fuel poverty and climate change be addressed at the same time?

Environmental and social commitments can clash quite badly over the question of fuel poverty. Charities and consumer groups have warned that Government plans announced in this year's Budget to tackle climate change, which will be paid for partly by a £30 annual levy on the average household energy bill, could push 1.7 million households into fuel poverty. 

Many funders who make money available for fuel poverty projects are seeking to address this potential clash.

Helen Walker, fundraising and sponsorship manager of fuel poverty campaign group National Energy Action, says: "Very few general trusts give grants for fuel poverty specific-ally. There are grants available for organisations and individuals, but many of them are from trusts linked to energy suppliers. You sometimes have to stress environmental savings in applications to them."

Some bigger trusts with environmental objectives give grants to organisations that make it clear their fuel poverty funding bids will make environmental savings as well, and there are a few funding bodies that are specific to fuel poverty.

Naomi Brown, trust manager at the charitable trust Eaga, which provides grants to energy-efficiency projects, says: "We've seen more applications from organisations working with older people and people with physical and learning disabilities. These are the consumers feeling the effects of the rise in fuel prices."

In July, the Fuel Poverty Advisory Group warned that the combination of rising unemployment and higher energy prices was likely to push hundreds of thousands more homes into the bracket where they are spending more than 10 per cent of their income simply on keeping warm.

Fuel poverty is likely to become a more important issue than ever, and organisations that fund work in this area are bracing themselves for increasing numbers of applications.

CASE STUDY: Changeworks

Edinburgh-based energy efficiency charity Changeworks has received a number of grants from the charitable trust Eaga, including one of £50,000 for a project called Energy Heritage, which tackles the high fuel bills faced by social housing tenants who live in Grade B listed Georgian tenement buildings in Lauriston Place, a Unesco World Heritage site in Edinburgh.

Nick Heath, a project officer for Changeworks, says: "There are a lot of planning regulations and you can't install double glazing. We carried out a pilot project on one staircase, including installing a secondary glazing system designed specially for historic buildings, high-quality draught proofing and reinstating the original internal wooden shutters.

"We also installed a new type of floor insulation in the basement flats and fitted everyone with A-rated boilers, loft insulation and low-energy lighting. We involved the nine households affected as much as we could."

The average saving is estimated at £175 a year, which translates into more than a tonne of carbon dioxide.

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