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04 November 2016

How smart meters can help with fuel poverty in Wales

Fuel poverty is a big problem in Wales, affecting the lives of over 350,000 people. People who struggle to keep their homes warm are often on low incomes, in rural areas, not connected to mains gas, or do not live in energy efficient homes, and are often the most vulnerable people in our communities. Many social housing tenants may be experiencing fuel poverty and we believe smart meters can help.

Keeping your house warm is something that a lot of people take for granted, but there are thousands of people across the country struggling to do just that. Numerous media stories have appeared in the press about people choosing between heating their home or eating and figures from the Office of National Statistics published last December, highlighted that in 2014/15, there were 2,600 more winter deaths in Wales compared to the rest of the year. Across England and Wales as a whole, the excess winter death figure was 43,900, the highest recorded number since 1999/00.

A householder in Wales is considered to be in fuel poverty if they need to spend 10% or more of their income on energy costs, and they are in severe fuel poverty if they need to spend 20% or more of their income on these costs. It is estimated that 31% of social housing tenants in the region live in fuel poverty; that’s approximately 70,000 people.

The two major factors which determine the fuel poverty status of a household are the amount of income received by the household and the amount of household income that is spent on fuel. Fuel expenditure is determined by a variety of factors, including fuel prices, the level of energy efficiency in the home, and whether the home is under occupied.

Our members, who provide homes and housing related services to ten percent of the Welsh population, are committed to delivering warm, affordable homes. But we know that that is not enough. We also need to work with our tenants to educate them about their energy consumption and to change behaviours.

That is why we at Community Housing Cymru are delighted to partner up with Smart Energy GB - the voice of Great Britain’s smart meter rollout.

Smart meters will replace the traditional meters we currently have in our homes. They will provide consumers with accurate bills, near real time information on energy usage in pounds and pence, and greater control over their gas and electricity.

Smart meters are a vital upgrade to Great Britain’s energy system. The way we measure and pay for gas and electricity hasn't kept up to speed with improvements across almost every other area of our lives. Smart meters will enable a more efficient, greener, smarter energy system and lay the foundations for smart grids, which are a whole new way of running our energy networks.
Through the partnership with Smart Energy GB, we are helping our members to communicate a clear and consistent message to their tenants about the smart meter rollout. This in turn is helping tenants to understand smart meters, the national rollout and how to use their new meters to get gas and electricity under control.

As part of the partnership with Smart Energy GB, we’ve run two free training courses for our members. These sessions, which ran at full capacity, have given housing associations staff the tools and knowledge to share the information they’ve learnt with additional front line staff and tenants.

We’ve also set up a resource centre on CHC’s website which includes posters, leaflets and video links about the rollout of smart meters. It can be accessed here: http://chcymru.org.uk/en/policy/energy-and-sustainability/smart-energy-gb/

Smart meters have a number of benefits for both tenants and housing associations. Feedback from our members about our partnership with Smart Energy GB has been very positive and we’re looking forward to playing our part to ensure that social housing tenants in Wales get the most out of the smart meter roll out and that they see savings in their pockets as a result.

For more information on the partnership between CHC and Smart Energy GB, please contact Adele Harries-Nicholas, CHC’s Member Services and Business Development Manager on02920674803 or by emailing [email protected]