Measures will include insulation, draught-proofing and heating schemes, as well as home energy assessments across a wide range of housing stock. "Whole house" approaches will mean that measures will be decided according to what best fits local housing and will involve the entire house instead of a single measure on a one size fits all basis. In Walsall, for example, work is expected to include external solid wall insulation and switching homes from high cost electricity heaters to lower cost gas central heating. Work in all projects will go beyond energy efficiency measures and include a range of related services such as benefits assessments.
The Community Energy Saving Programme (CESP) is a joint initiative between the government, energy suppliers and power generators which will see a total of £350m worth of energy efficiency measures installed over three years. British Gas will be spending approximately £70 million as part of the programme.
CESP is expected to benefit around 90,000 households and will save nearly four million tonnes of CO2 emissions. The programme will explore how households, local groups and energy suppliers can work together to deliver energy efficiency measures across an entire community – simple measures, such as insulation, could save an average of £365 a year off fuel bills. By targeting low income households, the programme is unique in helping the hard to reach people who have typically not benefited from other national energy efficiency initiatives.
Phil Bentley, Managing Director of British Gas said: "Households account for a quarter of the UK’s total CO2 emissions. By focusing on homes, and in particular vulnerable communities which have been traditionally hard to reach, we can make a significant impact on our national carbon footprint and cut the bills of Britain’s most hard-pressed families.
"As the country’s biggest energy supplier we are well-placed to take the lead in helping people become more energy efficient. This is why we’re very pleased to be the first energy supplier to begin CESP projects."
Energy and Climate Change Minister Joan Ruddock, gave her backing to the first wave of CESP projects saying: "I’m pleased that British Gas has been so quick off the mark to begin work in these ten areas and identifying the communities that will benefit. The Community Energy Saving Programme will help some of the lowest income households across Britain tackle fuel poverty. I look forward to hearing about the other energy company plans which will ultimately benefit around 90,000 homes over the next three years."
British Gas will be working with local authorities in each area as well as a number of charities including Scope, Help the Aged, Money Advice Trust and the RNIB.
Sian Mexsom, Head of Fundraising Partnerships at Age Concern and Help the Aged commented: "We’re delighted to be able to support British Gas in such a tremendously important programme. Through our work, we reach out to disadvantaged older people across the UK who tell us how they’re forced to live in just one heated room of their house in the colder winter months. We’re hopeful the CESP projects will help change this."
The first wave of the CESP programme, led by British Gas, will help low income homes in Birmingham, Chester, Dundee, Glasgow, Haringey, Swansea, Knowsley, Preston, Southwark and Walsall. Work will begin next month on scoping out the first community programmes.
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