How can we make sure that CO2 reduction programmes such as Birmingham Energy Savers benefit the most vulnerable people at risk of fuel poverty?

These are exciting times as innovative finance mechanisms such as Feed-In Tariffs[1] and Pay-As-You-Save[2] are opening up unprecedented opportunities for low-carbon retrofit.  Schemes such as Birmingham Energy Savers are showing how to achieve a local multiplier effect through creating local jobs and keeping energy spend within the local economy.

Yet many people fear that Feed-In Tariffs and Pay-As-You-Save schemes will mainly benefit the fuel rich, and will open up a new fuel poverty gap, with the poorest people being left behind by this low carbon revolution.  The respected environmental campaigner, George Monbiot, for example, sparked a fierce public debate about the subject in the Guardian a while ago.

It is for these reasons that Localise West Midlands is undertaking this action research project to examine what barriers exist to the fuel poor benefitting from these schemes, and what action needs to be taken to address the barriers.  We will be looking at the following themes: debt/poverty; metering; bill payment; financial literacy; corporate social responsibility; social policy; hard-to-treat homes issues; regulatory issues.  We will be consulting and interviewing a wide variety of stakeholders including: consumer advice bodies; voluntary groups; utilities; regulators; renewable energy companies; finance providers; technical experts; scheme managers; local authorities; private rented sector; Energy Saving Trust; housing providers; householders; campaigners; and government bodies.

The intended outcome of the research is that those managing current and future schemes will be able to better design them to benefit the fuel poor.  The research will also be of interest to many practitioners and decision makers in local government, energy and social policy.

This project is led by two Localise West Midlands associates, Phil Beardmore and Jon Morris, supported by LWM Co-ordinator, Karen Leach.

We would like to acknowledge the generous financial support of the ScottishPower Energy People Trust for this project.