2017 Grant Round Now Open

Eaga Charitable Trust has opened its grant round for 2017. The Trust provides financial support for work that contributes to understanding and addressing the causes and effects of fuel poverty. We aim to promote a sound evidence base to underpin decision-making in relation to improving the public’s health and wellbeing and combatting fuel poverty. This year our focus is on health, wellbeing and social cohesion, including the behavioural aspects of measures to improve energy efficiency and increase access to low-carbon technologies.

Further details of the 2017 grant programme and grant priority areas can be found here.

The deadline for the submission of grant applications is Friday 28 July 2017 and decisions on grant applications will be made in early September.

Postgraduate bursaries from Eaga Charitable Trust

This year Eaga Charitable Trust will award a maximum of three bursaries of up to £2,000 to postgraduate students. Bursaries are awarded to: current Masters students; students who have a confirmed place on a Masters course starting in the next academic year; and to PhD students in their second or third years of study. In all cases, applicants must be writing, or planning to write, a dissertation on a topic linked to fuel poverty within the UK or other EU countries. The subject of research needs to demonstrate direct relevance and application to UK fuel poverty policy. The deadline for the receipt of applications for these bursaries is Monday 12 June 2017. Bursary awards will be made in July 2017.

Further information on the bursary awards and the application process can be found here. If you have any queries, please contact the Trust Manager, Naomi Brown – email eagact@aol.com

New research on the lived reality of energy inefficiency in the private rented sector

Housing tenants in the private rented sector are choosing to live in cold homes out of fear of high heating bills and losing their tenancy, according to new research funded by Eaga Charitable Trust. 

The research, carried out by Sheffield Hallam University, was developed to provide a better understanding of the lived reality of energy inefficiency in private rented sector housing. The private rented sector is the fastest growing tenure in England. It houses a higher proportion of poor and vulnerable households than any other tenure and contains a higher proportion of the least energy-efficient properties.

The research which focused on private rental sector tenants across two areas of England, Hackney and Rotherham, revealed that tenants face considerable barriers to seeking help with cold homes that are unaffordable to heat. Respondents in both locations experienced dangerously cold homes and rationed their heating in winter due to energy inefficient properties and fears over high heating bills.

The stress of maintaining a tenancy – particularly given the high demand for rental properties – meant that few respondents considered how easy the home would be to heat when finding somewhere to live.

The relationship between tenant and landlord was one characterised by fear on the part of tenants that any complaint may be countered by retaliatory action such as rent increases or eviction if they spoke out. Most tenants felt reluctant to make contact with their landlord and instead found ways to work around problems.

Keeping warm by routinely wearing coats inside the home, keeping blankets in living areas and spending extra time in bed or outside of the home were common practice, as was heating the home for very short periods in order to save money, rather than lobbying landlords for improvements.

Issues such as excess cold, condensation, and extensive damp and mould were widely highlighted, along with increased suffering associated with chronic health conditions (e.g. respiratory diseases and arthritis) known to be exacerbated by cold homes, the emotional strain of insecure tenancies, and living in properties they wouldn’t have chosen to live in.

Over half of the participants used pre-payment methods to pay for their heating and therefore paid higher tariffs but, despite this, many valued pre-payment meters as a method of controlling spending on heating and electricity.

Under the Energy Act (2011) tenants are able to request consent from their landlords to carry out energy efficiency improvements to properties. The landlord cannot unreasonably refuse consent. It is, however, the responsibility of the tenants to arrange funding. Although the majority of respondents were supportive of the Act in principle, the majority felt too afraid to approach their landlord about this.

Dr Aimee Ambrose, senior research fellow from Sheffield Hallam University’s Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR), led the project.

Dr Ambrose said “There is a key voice missing from the debate about energy performance in the private rented sector: that of the tenant. Tenants are under-researched and underrepresented, lacking a collective voice due to the absence of organised groups representing them.

“The picture emerging from the accounts of respondents is one characterised by limited housing choice that leads to the acceptance of poor quality properties that would otherwise be unacceptable, to fear of challenging the landlord in case of retaliatory action, to enduring cold conditions and high bills, and to suffering the consequences for health and wellbeing.

“This research represents a decisive step towards a stronger voice for tenants in the debate about energy efficiency in the private rented sector.”

The full report and research summary can be accessed here.

New research on fuel poverty in Scotland

The Speird Project: research by Glasgow Caledonian University

Research funded by Eaga Charitable Trust provides new evidence on the extent and segmentation of fuel poverty in Scotland – uncovering the ‘hidden geographies’ of fuel poverty across rural areas and the islands. The Speird Project was developed by Dr Keith Baker and Ron Mould at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU), and conducted in partnership with ALIenergy, Lochalsh and Skye Housing Association, Orkney Isles Council, Highland Council, and Scarf, with support from a steering group chaired by Energy Action Scotland. The findings validate and substantially expand on previous research by the GCU team, which found the difference between the amounts rural and urban households in Renfrewshire were spending on heating was significantly more than current statistics suggest. The recommendations include the need for policies that treat fuel poverty as primarily a welfare problem, and which treat householders as individuals, not statistics. The full report and research summary can be accessed here.

Masters bursary recipient wins Green Gown Award

Eaga Charitable Trust is delighted to learn that one of its Masters bursary recipients, Danielle Butler from the Sustainable Housing and Urban Studies (SHUSU) Unit at the University of Salford, has been awarded a Green Gown Award. Established in 2004, the Green Gown Awards recognise the exceptional sustainability initiatives being undertaken by universities, colleges and the learning and skills sectors across the UK and Ireland. Danielle won in the Student Research category for her Masters research which explored fuel poverty among young adult households. Further details, including a video about Danielle’s research, can be found here.

‘The Health of the Nation’: analysis of cost effectiveness and success factors in health-related fuel poverty schemes

Start Date: September 2016
Completion Date: March 2017
Grant Holders: SE2 & Lewisham Council
Main Contact: Liz Warren, Director SE2
Email: liz.warren@se-2.co.uk

Summary
‘The Health of the Nation’ will research the cost effectiveness and success factors of health-related fuel poverty schemes across the UK. SE2 Ltd and Lewisham Council are working together to build a new evidence base about the costs and outcomes of fuel poverty schemes, to help provide benchmarks to scheme managers and insight to policymakers. How do schemes measure success? What does value-for-money look like? How do scheme objectives and design affect results? How much does it cost to generate a referral? We will be asking local authorities, scheme providers and referral partners for insight and data to underpin this important and innovative study.

Final report

Research summary

Policymakers’ guidance

Guidance for fuel poverty scheme managers

Homes Fit for Study 2016

Start Date: November 2016
Completion Date: May 2017
Grant Holders: National Union of Students Charitable Services
Main Contact: Rachel Drayson, Insight Manager – Sustainability
Email: rachel.drayson@nus.org.uk

Summary
‘Homes fit for study’ 2016 is in-depth research into students’ experiences of fuel poverty. Through three phases of research (including scoping literature review, online survey and focus groups), the research will uncover:

– how fuel poverty and cold homes are experienced by different segments of the student population;
– the impacts of fuel poverty on health and wellbeing for students;
– behavioural indicators of fuel poverty; and
– insight into positive and negative influences of ‘smart’ technologies designed to facilitate energy conservation.

Recommendations for key stakeholders working in the field of fuel poverty and in student accommodation will be developed from the research, as well as resources to support students experiencing fuel poverty.

Modelling the impact of fuel poverty and energy efficiency on health

Start Date: November 2016
Completion Date: July 2017
Grant Holders: University of Exeter Medical School
Main Contacts: Dr Ben Wheeler, Senior Research Fellow & Dr Richard Sharpe, Associate Research Fellow
Email: B.W.Wheeler@exeter.ac.uk; R.Sharpe@exeter.ac.uk

Summary
This is a collaborative fuel poverty project between the University of Exeter Medical School, Public Health Devon, Public Health Cornwall, the NEW Devon Clinical Commissioning Group and the Energy Saving Trust. In this novel exploratory study, we aim to investigate the links between changes in the built environment, fuel poverty and health. We will link a range of housing, environmental and health ‘big’ data sets to assess the sustainability and health promoting effects of improved housing across the UK. It is envisaged that this will provide a method for targeting investment and services in Devon and Cornwall, and will have relevance elsewhere.

Low Carbon Heat and Rural Fuel Poverty – Lessons from Europe

Start Date: August 2016
Completion Date: November 2017
Grant Holders: Community Energy Plus
Main Contact: Dionne Jones, Senior Manager, Research and Funding
Email: dionne@cep.org.uk

Summary
Rural communities have higher fuel poverty levels due to low incomes and expensive heating fuels. Some European countries with more low carbon heat take-up have lower fuel poverty levels than the UK. The project will undertake a comparative analysis between the UK and other countries to identify drivers and barriers affecting take-up. Case studies will share learning from rural low carbon heat projects and the potential for community ownership models to reduce installation costs will be explored. Best practice, policy and financial incentives will be identified to improve access to affordable low carbon heat for rural households.

Eaga Charitable Trust responds to Ofgem consultation on allocation of redress payments

Eaga Charitable Trust has submitted a response to Ofgem’s consultation on ‘Allocation of voluntary redress payments in the context of enforcement cases’, proposing that a small portion should be allocated to the Trust to ensure that there is dedicated research in the energy sector on issues relating to fuel poverty and health and wellbeing.  The consultation proposes more transparent administration and regulation of how voluntary redress money – tens of millions of pounds a year – is spent.  Ofgem is considering opening up access to this funding to a much wider range of organisations working with the public on energy issues. Eaga Charitable Trust proposes that Ofgem’s objectives for spending this money should be widened to allow a small sum to be spent on practical research and innovation into how to assist vulnerable and hard-to-reach energy consumers who are not accessing affordable energy. This could be delivered very effectively and efficiently through Eaga Charitable Trust.

Our full response to Ofgem’s consultation can be found here