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Self-help the key for communities

Posted on 30 January 2014

Case study:

One Planet Middlesbrough              
One Planet Middlesbrough, supported by £1 million from Communities Living Sustainably, is focusing on improving energy efficiency and tackling fuel poverty in the town. OPM runs training, awareness events and advice sessions which direct residents into an existing Middlesbrough Council scheme with accredited installers and access to financial support for energy-saving measures. So far, One Planet Middlesbrough’s team of energy champions has advised around 1,000 households, leading to the installation of more than 800 fuel-saving measures. These measures could lead to lifetime fuel bill savings well in excess of £1.3 million and carbon dioxide savings of almost 5,300 tonnes. OPM is concentrating its efforts on deprived communities, those with low educational attainment and people living with a variety of health issues.

Community groups working to combat the effects of climate change and improve their energy efficiency are increasingly turning to each other for advice and support as other sources of free help disappear, according to a new study.

A nationwide network of groups funded by the Big Lottery Fund Communities Living Sustainably programme is producing a considerable amount of valuable information on how small-scale projects can produce major benefits.

The £12 million CLS programme is funding 12 groups across England from Dorset to Newcastle as they explore ways of dealing with the potential impact of climate change and building the sustainability and resilience of their local community.

The groups are supported by the Groundwork UK Learning Partnership – five organisations with expertise in climate change, sustainability and community action.

The partnership is made up of Groundwork UK, the Energy Saving Trust, the Federation of City Farms and Gardens, the New Economics Foundation and the Building Research Establishment.

A report on the energy lessons emerging from the programme, written by Graham Ayling of the Energy Saving Trust, highlights communication between communities as a key feature.

“In recent years the scope and availability of free and impartial advice on energy at

community level has reduced, for example with the end of the Energy Efficiency Advice Centre Network and austerity measures impacting many council-funded advice services,” he says.

“Other community groups are therefore one of the few sources of free advice available to groups. This appears to work well where documents can be shared and where informal contact is sufficient. Communities Living Sustainably has the opportunity to facilitate this where participants can share experience on different aspects of their projects to gain mutual value.”

During the five-year programme, community groups are exploring a number of methods to improve energy efficiency, including

  • Establishing networks of volunteer energy advisers
  • Setting up community-owned solar energy systems
  • Creating demonstration homes to show energy saving in action

Groundwork Chief Executive Sir Tony Hawkhead said: “Individuals and communities increasingly want to have more control over their energy use, for sound financial and environmental reasons.

“We are beginning to see the value of a whole range of imaginative approaches to the issues. The logical next step is for these to be shared and explored so we can turn the best ideas into best practice.

“Communities Living Sustainably is exactly the right way for this to be achieved.”

Earlier this week, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey launched the Government’s Community Energy Strategy, which is intended to help communities take control of their energy bills.

Support available for community energy projects is to be broadened, helping people who come together to reduce their energy use or purchase and generate their own energy. Plans include:

  • A £10m Urban Community Energy Fund to kick-start community energy generation projects in England
  • £1m Big Energy Saving Network funding to support the work of volunteers helping vulnerable consumers to reduce their energy
  • A community energy saving competition, offering £100,000 to communities to develop innovative approaches to saving energy and money
  • A “one-stop shop” information resource for people interested in developing community energy projects.

To read the CLS report click here



For further information, contact:

Garry Campbell, Communications Manager, Groundwork UK

T: 0121 237 5811

M: 07703 535841


Notes to Editors

Communities Living Sustainably is part of the Big Lottery Fund’s £50m Sustainable and Resilient Communities strategy, which aims to encourage behaviour change among individuals and communities so they can cope better with the environmental, economic and social impacts of a changing climate. 12 community partnerships of public, private and voluntary sector bodies have been awarded up to £1m each to deliver up to five years of community led sustainability interventions.
For more about Communities Living Sustainably click here

The Energy Saving Trust is a social enterprise with a charitable foundation.
Through partnerships it offers impartial advice to communities and households on how to reduce carbon emissions, use water more sustainably and save money on energy bills.
It works with governments, local authorities, third sector organisations and businesses.
Activities include:

  • Delivering or managing government programmes 
  • Testing low-carbon technology
  • Certification and assurance for businesses and consumer goods
  • Developing models and tools

For more about the Energy Saving Trust click here

The Big Lottery Fund, the largest distributor of National Lottery good cause funding, is responsible for giving out 40% of the money raised for good causes by the National Lottery.
The Fund is committed to bringing real improvements to communities and the lives of people most in need and has been rolling out grants to health, education, environment and charitable causes across the UK. Since its inception in 2004 BIG has awarded close to £6bn.

For more about the Big Lottery Fund click here