Energise Sussex Coast deliver Energy Champion Training in Rother

Sussex-based community benefit society Energise Sussex Coast (ESC) is delighted to share details from its Energy Champion training event on Thursday 27th of July. 

The training session was commissioned by Rother District Council, who also hosted the event in the Council Chamber at Bexhill Town Hall. The event was the second of its kind, following an earlier training session held by Energise Sussex Coast at The White Rock Hotel in Hastings on Saturday 10th June.

What is an energy champion? 

The wider Energy Champion project is Funded by Energise Sussex Coast’s recent three-year funding from the National Lottery Reaching Communities fund (a branch of the National Lottery Community Fund), with the Rother Energy Champion project funded by both Rother District Council and the National Lottery Reaching Communities fund. Energy Champions are individuals who receive free training and ongoing in person support from ESC’s Energy Champion Coordinator. Once trained, Energy Champions are able to give energy advice to local people, helping them to save energy and bring down their energy bills. Energy Champions can also help set up Community Energy projects such as thermal imaging surveys, draught busting, and solar streets, as well as host energy workshops and other energy saving and educational initiatives. You can learn more about the role here.

Why is training local energy champions important? 

The UK and much of the globe is in a state of crisis. We’re facing spiralling energy costs and a debilitatingly high cost of living and are beginning to experience the first of the myriad effects of climate change as the world as we know it changes around us. 

This is all compounded by a housing crisis, and one where much of the housing stock across the country isn’t fit for purpose – leaving many people stuck in homes with poor insulation and issues with damp, mold, and draughts. The new houses that are being built are largely energy inefficient and rely on fossil fuels such as gas to heat them. 

In the midst of this collective struggle, the world of corporate energy is raking in record profits. The UK’s biggest energy supplier reported profits of £969m for the first six months of 2023, up almost 900% from £98m in the same period last year.  Figures like this are made even more stark by the fact that in August 2022 research by University of York predicted that more than three-quarters of households in the UK, or 53 million people, were going to experience fuel poverty by January 2023. Following updated figures to allow for Government rebates, researchers still predicted that 62.5% of households would be in fuel poverty by April 2023 – with the depth of fuel poverty also increasing. To be categorised in the research as experiencing fuel poverty, a household needed to spend more than 10% of its net income (after housing costs) on fuel costs. By April 2023 over 9.5 million people were predicted to be spending an astronomical 30% of their income on fuel costs, more than triple the number in 2019/20. 

Although we are now in the summer months, many households across the UK remain in debt from winter – and the cost of energy means that for many even low usage summer bills are unmanageably high. Support organisations across the UK, including Energise Sussex Coast, are overwhelmed with unprecedented demand for energy efficiency advice. 

Energy Champions are being trained to empower local communities and build capacity in energy advice by sharing knowledge and best practice. Trained energy champions can help their families, friends, neighbours, and others navigate the often tricky and complex area of energy usage and build their resilience in the face of the multiple crises of energy, cost of living, and climate change. 

Cllr Kathryn Field, cabinet member for Environmental, Licensing, Community Safety and Climate Strategy at Rother District Council explained its support for the project:

“The Council is committed to helping residents reduce energy usage and save money on their bills. Emissions from domestic properties equate to over a third of Rother’s district-wide carbon footprint. The advice provided by the newly trained Energy Champions will help to reduce these emissions, and lower bills, through small energy efficiency measures. Reduced emissions mean cleaner air, fewer respiratory diseases and savings for the NHS.” 

Kate Meakin, Energise Sussex Coast Director and manager of the organisation’s multi-award-winning Energy Advice service, also shared her thoughts on the role:

 “Being an energy champion and giving energy advice is highly rewarding due to the tangible results that it can deliver to both individuals and communities in a short space of time. Becoming an energy champion is also a nice opening to a potential career change, for anyone considering energy advice as their next calling.” 

About the energy champion training 

The session was a one-day introductory training for individuals interested to learn more about the world of energy advice and efficiency, and was led by Kate Meakin. Richard Watson, founder and CEO of Energise Sussex Coast, introduced Energise Sussex Coast and its other activities centred on community-owned renewable energy generation – including the ongoing Warmer Crowhurst Clean Energy Project, with a number of project members amongst 25 attendees which also included local residents and regional Councillors.

During the training attendees explored the wider context of the energy crisis, definitions, implications, and perceptions of fuel poverty, home insulation, EPCs, funding sources, how to understand energy bills, the Priority Services Register, and available discounts and schemes. The training was delivered using a mixture of presentations, videos, group exercises and games, and case studies. 

Sonia Plato, Crowhurst Parish Councillor and part of of the Warmer Crowhurst Clean Energy Project, shared thoughts about the day: 

“We found the training very helpful and informative. Kate’s delivery of the all-day session was excellent, providing a variety of delivery methods including helpful examples, Q&As and useful handouts. There was lots of encouragement to use participants’ own experience and share knowledge and ideas.” 

Battle Town Councillors including Vikki Cook, Dale Wheeler, David Russell and Sue Burton also expressed that:

 “[it was] an excellent training day, learning how to understand energy bills and enabling us to make better energy choices.”

The second Rother training day covering community engagement will take place in September. 

What’s next? 

There are upcoming energy champions trainings around Hastings, Rother and Eastbourne. Please get in touch with Chris Richards, Energy Champions Co-ordinator at chris@energisesussexcoast.co.uk if interested.

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Kate Meakin, Energise Sussex Coast Director, delivering Energy Champion Training. 

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Energy champion training: participants playing the Low Carbon House game

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Energy champion training: Richard Watson, Energise Sussex Founder and CEO,  with participants playing the Low Carbon House game

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Energy champion training: participants playing the Low Carbon House game