The mission of the Mendip Environment Energy Conservation Volunteers is to educate and enthuse people on the importance of improving the energy efficiency of all buildings in their community. This is achieved by Mendip Environment training and deploying a formally qualified, volunteer, energy efficiency assessor who is dedicated to a Mendip parish or town. The volunteer energy efficiency assessor provides energy efficiency advice and audits in the homes of parishioners and their village premises. In so doing he or she helps to eradicate fuel poverty and combat climate change. Parish and personal funds are saved by cutting energy costs and the parish's carbon footprint is reduced.
Mode of Working.
The volunteers work with parish councils and parishioners on conserving energy in village and domestic premises. Mendip Environment has existing successful schemes in Frome and Glastonbury. The schemes work well because the energy assessors are sound and networked, accredited and trained, local, volunteer and environmental (acronym, "SALVE").
As a not for profit company with no completely assured income, Mendip Environment clearly needs to meet the costs of recruitment and then training and co-ordination of Energy Conservation Volunteers. Unless the costs can be met by grant aid (for example county councillor funds), it is anticipated that the parish will need to meet the costs from its precept. There are two possible routes for this. The low cost option at £500 is to have Mendip Environment recruit a number of "Parish Carbon Footprint Reduction Champions" who would be internally trained and work informally in the parish under the guidance of a fully qualified member of our existing team. After evaluation, one or more Champions may secure formal qualification if further funding can be found. The conventional option of appointing a dedicated and fully qualified Energy Conservation Volunteer involves costs of £500 for recruitment and £750 for training and co-ordination/networking. Much of the training costs are taken up with City and Guilds course and examination fees. The schemes can work hand in hand with another Mendip Environment project; that of the recruitment and development of a parish green home champion. At £400, this involves modest additional recruitment and development costs. Mendip Environment believes in the value of having best practice examples of homes in every Mendip parish. The finding and appointment of a parish green home champion meets this aspiration and assists the volunteer energy assessor in his/her work.
There are around 5000 people living in fuel poverty in Mendip. Many of the fuel poor are to be found in privately owned or privately rented housing. A high proportion of homes in Mendip are hard to treat, being solid walled with no roof spaces. This can mean that high heating costs push people into fuel poverty. 40% of the population lives outside the towns, the vast majority of which is off the gas network.
Community Capacity Building.
The project develops the strength and role of parish community groups and voluntary organisations. The Mendip Environment Community Interest Company is a not for profit organisation, set up to champion action on environmental issues in Mendip District. It sponsors a programme of community capacity building to deliver improvements in energy efficiency at the household level and works in partnership to adapt to, and mitigate against, impacts of climate change. The programme helps to improve the social, economic, physical and environmental health of a community in a sustainable way.
Promoting the Local Economy.
The Energy Conservation Volunteers programme promotes a productive and competitive Somerset economy by linking parishioners to local suppliers of energy saving goods, services and appliances. This helps to minimise waste and expense such that the parish community is more sustainable and enjoys better warmth and health. The green homes champion scheme allows examples of energy saving fittings and appliances to be close to hand with local and impartial opinion as to their effectiveness being readily available.
The scheme presumes a personal, unpaid, visit to parishioners' homes or parish buildings and by such direct contact raises awareness of the importance of energy conservation and renewal. Experience has shown that the householder response to even a written or telephoned suggestion from a known person or group within the town or village is likely to very different from the reaction to either an official or a sales person.
Parish Council Liaison.
The Parish Council would advise the Mendip Environment Community Interest Company in managing the scheme at the local level. As a consequence of the scheme, the council has access to their own, professionally qualified, energy conservation volunteer to assist in domestic and village premises energy conservation.
Energy Conservation Advice Given.
Volunteers (and local assistants) are trained by Mendip Environment staff to give face to face advice to householders' covering;
· Behavioural changes that will save energy at no cost
· Low cost measures which are simple to install
· Higher cost measures, including building integrated renewable energy
· Grants available to vulnerable and able to pay householders
· Sources of advice to assist benefit take up
Volunteers will be able to advise and refer householders to various grant making organisations. These include Somerset Warm Streets, Warming Mendip and Warm Front. They will also be able to direct householders to renewable energy grants, such as the Low Carbon Buildings Programme, where appropriate. Where householders are in receipt of benefits, volunteers will be able to suggest sources of advice. The programme will also increase householders understanding of how they can save energy through changes in behaviour. The Energy Saving Trust estimates that over 20% energy savings can be made by no cost measures alone.
Co-ordination with other schemes.
Mendip Environment will co-ordinate, manage and network the work of parish volunteers with the Mendip Partnership for Energy Project (which it also administers with the Mendip Strategic Partnership). The Mendip Partnership for Energy is an Invest to Save Budget funded programme that teams energy auditing of public buildings with community awareness raising focussing on energy efficiency.
Process of Recruitment.
With funding in place, Mendip Environment approaches parish clerks and parish chairmen and councils to present our established energy saving "Road Show" exhibition (http://mendip.ourenvironment.org.uk/node/108) at a parish council or (preferably) an annual parish meeting. Mendip Environment then attends some future parish council meetings. Mendip Environment contributes to parish council newsletters, websites, fetes, local press and pamphleteers to secure the recruitment of the parish energy conservation volunteer either within or without the parish council membership.
Process of Training.
The volunteers are criminal bureau checked by Mendip Environment and sponsored through outside day courses leading to a professional qualification. The presumption is that, on average, volunteers will give around one hour a week to the project. Protocols to ensure safe working by volunteers are established and the volunteers are insured through Mendip Environment cover. More informal training will be made available to others in the parish by Mendip Environment to assist the qualified volunteer in his or her work. Mendip Environment "networks" all parish energy conservation volunteers and paves the way for the acquisition of more qualifications and training should the volunteer feel the need.
Volunteers will be encouraged to develop expertise in treating the types of properties that are found locally. In particular older stone built properties are hard to treat and it can be difficult to find advice on appropriate measures. 7% of the housing stock in Mendip is listed and a much higher proportion is of traditional construction, typically with single skin stone walls and tile roofs with attic rooms. The high-energy cost of such buildings can push families who would otherwise cope quite well into fuel poverty. National programmes often miss these properties, as it is more difficult to develop energy efficiency measures that are suitable for them.
The Mendip Environment Energy Conservation Volunteers will receive training and gain experience in energy efficiency. They will also be a central part of the development of community action to tackle climate change. All those participating in the project will be part of a growing movement to tackle climate change, which is gathering pace locally. It is important in recruiting both volunteers and householders that this sense of the community moving forward together is maintained. The villages in Mendip are particularly suited to this type of approach, being mixed and inclusive communities. Volunteers will work with their local communities and offer assessments to people who are known to them. Additionally, Mendip Environment, harnessing the energy of some Green Homes Champions, expects to run (grant applications pending to other bodies) an annual autumn, " Mendip Open Green Homes and Gardens" event to provide more inspiration. ME is generating a local reputation as a source of good advice and help on energy efficiency, fuel poverty and tackling climate change.