Simon Robinson of Action for Sustainable Living answers MCFly’s questions about the “Energy Academy”
What is the Energy Academy?
The aim of the Energy Academy programme is train, enthuse and support housing staff and tenants in domestic energy behavioural change, to reduce energy use and save tenants money. It has grown from an initial £10k grant from Manchester City Council working with two housing associations, to a £110k programme that has worked with around 8 housing sector organisations.
Our aim to develop capacity of organisations and residents to cascade the energy saving message to others within the community.
We’ve recruited and trained around 15-20 freelance staff to help deliver this work, providing employment to local people.
We utilise the communications materials developed for the multi-award winning RELISH project (www.relish.org) and are the UK’s first RELISH approved adopter.
What have been its concrete achievements so far?
Our main achievements have been in finding some wonderful tenants and residents who are keen to volunteer to help their friends, family and neighbours in saving energy and money. In addition to behavioural changes many tenants have also explored switching energy supplier which has saved them significant amounts on money.
We’ve trained around 30 staff and 100’s of tenants who’ve spread the message to 100’s more
What have the major challenges been?
Engaging tenants and residents on energy saving is often the poor relation of building refurbishment and improvements to infrastructure, and often ends up as an afterthought in many regeneration programmes. The result is that householders often don’t change their energy behaviour and don’t get the best out of their newly refurbished homes.
A major challenge for regeneration programmes is to recognise this at procurement stage, and reserve some money to inform and educate tenants in a meaningful way as part of the overall programme. A leaflet or energy guide achieves little with practical support.
We’re also been reminded of the challenge of bad weather and football fixtures affecting participation, as well as the need to keep paperwork to a minimum for volunteers!
What unexpected things have happened?
Its always a pleasant surprise to find staff and tenants who want to go the extra mile in helping us to assist those most in need.
What next for the project?
We’re exploring options to market Energy Academy services to a wider range of clients. We see that demand for energy saving services are likely to increase in the wake of forthcoming national changes to the benefits system. Its predicted that these benefits changes, combined with increasing energy prices, will lead to greater fuel poverty.
If AfSL can play a small part in helping those most in need, and reduce carbon emissions, then the Energy Academy will have done its job.
If people want to get involved, how can they, and what sorts of things would they be doing?
Anyone who wants to make simple changes at home to save energy and money can download our Residents’ Energy Guide from http://www.afsl.org.uk/energyacademy
We also can make use of volunteers on the Energy Academy and other projects through our new E-Team. Anyone can register on-line on www.afsl.org.uk/get-involved/volunteer/
DISCLAIMER: AfSL are acting as guinea-pigs for a MCFly project called “Activist Skills and Knowledge“, and this may have made us (subconsciously) duck asking tricky questions. If you’ve got questions for Mr Robinson, you can send them to him direct, or come to us and we will unpack the thumbscrews.