Volunteering with PEC shaped my future

PEC Student volunteer Olivia Wells_blogAfter moving to Plymouth to go to University I wanted to start something outside of my studies to help build my CV and get more experience. That’s when I discovered Plymouth Energy Community, advertising their first round of Home Energy Volunteer training. The training sessions were very welcoming and interesting and through which, I was first introduced to the concept of fuel poverty. After the training I was ready to assist in home visits as well as attending events to help promote the valuable services PEC provide. Volunteering with PEC was very flexible around my studies, allowing me to do a few hours here and there. It helped me build confidence and the work I carried out was worthwhile and fulfilling, I could see the changes as we helped to empower households.

The role I had with PEC inspired me for the topic of my undergraduate dissertation ‘Fuel poverty in Plymouth: analysing PEC as a local solution’. After sometime PEC also put me through further training to achieve a City & Guilds in Energy Awareness. My passion and enthusiasm for volunteering with PEC was rewarded after being nominated and winning of Plymouth’s Young Volunteer of the Year 2016. Unfortunately due to time constraints my volunteering came to an end in my final year at University. But the skills I gained and the training I received enabled me to get my dream graduate role as an Energy Advisor for a charity based in Southampton. I’m excited to be doing similar rewarding work on fuel poverty and energy efficiency.

I’d encourage anyone to join the PEC Pal‘s programme. You’ll learn so much and meet some fantastic people, it’s definitely helped me.

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Stay warm and well – learn from a pelican

Plymouth residents have some very tricky houses to keep warm. Houses that are older and without a handy cavity to pop insulation into. There are underperforming heating systems, and sometimes, no systems at all. We have the weather to contend with too and wind that can drive rain right through gaps and cracks. Or else damp laidened air to settle on cold walls and grow black mould. Perhaps you’re living with an illness or long-term condition and worry whenever the fuel bill comes in. You’re not alone, almost half of the city worries with you.

A few months ago, when standing at a pelican crossing a friend nodded at the yellow control box and said “Do you know what’s under there?”
“Chewing gum?” I replied.
“Apart from that!”.
Well no, it turns out that I didn’t know. There is a small metal cone with grooves waiting to rotate and tell you it’s safe to cross. I was utterly amazed! I had no idea help like that was available.

And here’s the thing, there is help available…

I often meet residents who say they are astounded that PEC can help. They don’t know there is a fund to help clear energy arrears. That if eligible you can get £140 towards your electricity bill each year. That we can visit your home or talk to surly suppliers for you. That we will help you switch and knock an average of £185 from an annual bill. That suppliers can be made to take note and offer extra assistance if you have an illness or vulnerability. That grants for insulation and boilers can be found. That we can help apply for welfare benefits to maximise income and minimise worry. But we can, you know.

So today, see this blog as a friend pointing at the pelican crossing and saying “Guess what’s there”. You never know, it might just be the help you’re looking for.

energyteam@plymouthenergycommunity.com

The Black Hole of UK Energy Policy

 

One thing you don’t hear Amber Rudd or the big DC broadcasting is their incredible knowledge and ability in the field of Physics. It’s a little known fact but the whole Conservative team who concern themselves with UK energy policy are in fact expert physicists. “Nonsense!” I hear you cry .

Not so. How else could our current government have created an energy policy black hole in a mere 6 months of being office? Just so you’re clear, and thank you to Wikipedia,

‘A black hole is a geometrically defined region of spacetime exhibiting such strong gravitational effects that nothing can escape from inside it.’

The energy policy black hole created by the conservatives clearly has an insatiable appetite, consuming all manner of energy related policies – FiTS, Green Deal, Roc’s, Zero Carbon homes, chunks of ECO (the remainder of which is perilously close to the edge). The key thing about a black hole is that nothing gets out – all of these policies have gone for good.

“Not True” I can hear ardent Tory supporters shout, “FiTs are still here!”. In spirit perhaps, though you show me a solar scheme that’s viable based on FiTs and I’ll show you the greenest government ever……

I’m a firm believer in changing things that don’t work, but you can’t just stop something as critical as reducing CO2 emissions, or insulating homes occupied by the fuel poor, without replacing it with something better. We’ve had nothing other than a verbal rhetoric from our most esteemed physicists – a rhetoric that suggests ‘the Energy Company Obligation is concentrated on those in greatest need’.

Need in Amber Rudd’s eyes is defined as ‘the ones who live in damp and draughty homes’ – I’m not aware of any energy company who chose to meet their ECO obligation by installing draught proofing. The government also promises that 1 million homes will receive help over the next 5 years. To put that in context there are 4.5 million homes suffering the effects of fuel poverty in the UK right now – you can make up your own mind as to whether the Conservative’s target is ambitious enough.

We can not afford to plod on with what little existing energy policy we have. Globally climate change is there for all to see – locally people are dying because they can not afford to heat their home. So come on Amber, come on Dave, black holes are so 2015 – give all us community focussed do gooders something to get our teeth into this year.