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Residents of 650 Penplas homes set to benefit as ‘Transformative’ Swansea energy retrofit scheme kicks off

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Work is set to get underway on the UK’s largest ever energy retrofit project of its kind, that will see almost 650 homes in a Swansea community benefiting from the installation of state-of-the art renewable energy generation, energy storage and smart energy management technology.

The homes, in the Penderry Ward of the city, are owned and managed by Pobl, Wales’ largest provider of affordable housing, who have partnered with renewable energy tech and service supplier, Sero.

It is anticipated that the innovative scheme, supported by £3.5m EU funds from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the Welsh Government, will see the community generate as much as 60 per cent of their total electricity requirements, reducing bills as well as carbon emissions by as much 350 tonnes per year.  

Pobl has been engaging with local residents in Penderry about the future of their community over the last few years, including running a smart energy pilot scheme with a small number of residents.

The energy retrofit, which will kick off in the New Year, is seen as a stepping-stone to a wider investment into the Penderry area that will have a positive impact across the entire community.

Solitaire Pritchard, Head of Regeneration at Pobl Homes & Communities said: “Fuel prices and climate change are two sides of the same crisis, with people in Wales still among the most fuel-poor in the UK. We are committed to identifying new ways of making homes more environmentally and financially sustainable – and that includes our existing homes as well as our new developments.  This means we need to be innovative in our approach to finding a transformative solution and we are delighted to partner with Sero. The scheme will introduce technology into our homes that will change lives and sustain communities while also looking after the planet for future generations.”

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Homes as power stations (Image: Sero Homes)

James Williams, Managing Director of Sero says the project will make a compelling case for turning existing housing stock into low carbon, generative homes, creating “properly sustainable, connected communities”, and cutting energy bills for residents in the process.  

“Given its scale, Pobl’s  investment in Penderry will be very significant in demonstrating the positive environmental impact that low carbon technologies can have within existing housing stock” he said.

“There is, quite rightly, a growing requirement for new homes to be created carbon neutral, and that can’t come quickly enough. But, at the same time, as recognised by both the UK and Welsh Governments, there is huge potential for real environmental gains to be made by retro-fitting our existing homes to reduce their current 20% contribution to UK carbon emissions. This project will be an early exemplar of how that potential can be realised.” 

Julie James MS

Welsh Government Minister for Housing and Local Government, Julie James said: ““The transformational nature of this project on social housing in Wales is significant and this has been recognised by the ERDF funding at a time when we need to address the Climate Emergency and create new jobs, training and innovation opportunities in our communities in response to Covid 19.

“As one of the UKs largest energy retrofit projects, it shows a clear demonstration of the commitment from Pobl, local authorities and Wales’ social housing sector to reduce carbon emissions.

“This innovative project in Penderry will not only make a difference to its residents but is another step to having more low carbon homes in Wales.”

Sero will install individual or communal batteries for all homes that will harness power generated via linked solar panels fitted to most, so that renewable energy is generated and can be stored for subsequent use by the community. 

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Every home will also have new smart thermostats and intelligent heating controls, managed through Sero’s digital app, to deliver energy bill savings for residents while also balancing demand from the grid so that stored energy is used at the most expensive times. 

Serco’s digital app (Image: Pobl group)

The project will address new forms of inequality related to solar orientation by ensuring that all residents benefit from the energy generated by the community.

The Penderry community will also benefit from large scale infrastructure upgrades, due to Western Power Distribution using this project as its national pilot to trial the positive effects on local grid infrastructure of renewable energy supplies and storage that are intelligently managed through trusted systems installed in people’s homes.

Local resident Brian Mcallen participated in the pilot scheme and he welcomed news of the roll-out to the wider community, saying:

“This scheme will have enormous benefits for the entire community, it allows people to really see how green energy works and how much money they can save to use elsewhere. It can be a real eye opener.

“I’ve always been interested in it and thought about how we can use solar power to make a difference in this community, but there has to be an incentive for people.

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“You can explain the benefits as much as you want, it’s only when people can see it for themselves that it really hits home and they really understand it. This is straightforward and easy to use, it’s a great idea that everyone will benefit from.”

The scheme is the largest retrofit project of its kind – relating to the number of homes within one local area being retrofitted to deliver joined renewable energy benefits across the entire community.

Homes as power stations project in Neath (Image: Swansea Bay City Deal)

SWANSEA BAY CITY DEAL – HOMES AS POWER STATIONS PROJECT

Lessons learned from the Penderry scheme will inform the wider roll-out of renewable energy technology in thousands of homes throughout the Swansea Bay City Region as part of a City Deal Homes as Power Stations project, subject to its approval by the UK Government and Welsh Government.

Energy efficiency technology will be retrofitted to 7,000 homes with a further 3,300 new build homes also set to benefit as part of this regional project, which is led by Neath Port Talbot Council.  

Cllr Rob Jones, Leader of Neath Port Talbot Council

Cllr Rob Jones, Leader of Neath Port Talbot Council said: “A pathfinder scheme of this kind has already been completed in Neath, which will also inform the Homes as Power Stations regional project being led by Neath Port Talbot Council, subject to its approval.  

“Technology like this is important because it’ll help tackle fuel poverty and improve residents’ health and well-being, while benefitting regional supply chain businesses and further decarbonising the local and regional economies.”

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Swansea Council has also already begun the revolution of creating new energy efficient homes in the city. A pilot scheme has been completed, retrofitting six bungalows with innovative energy saving equipment which has helped the properties generate their own power as well as save on energy bills. 

Cllr Andrea Lewis, Swansea Council Cabinet Member for Homes, Energy and Service Transformation said: “This is great news for Swansea and for residents who want to live in homes which are sustainable and result in lower energy bills.     

“Some of our own tenants are already benefitting from this type of development and it’s fantastic to know that Pobl are also ensuring those living in social housing in the city will benefit in the future. Jointly we can help reduce the risks of issues such as fuel and energy poverty.”

(Lead image: Pobl group)


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Energy

Older people in Swansea face misery as cost-of-living increases, warns local charity

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Older people will face the real possibility of not being able to heat their homes or even afford food, as the cost-of-living crises intensifies, warns a local Swansea charity.

Care & Repair Western Bay support thousands of older homeowners in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot and have raised the alarm as many of those they help are “extremely worried”.

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Care & Repair Western Bay Chief Officer, Emma Tweed, said: “We believe that everyone deserves to live independently for as long as possible. Yet, with the cost-of-living rising the situation is becoming desperate. Therefore, as the local elections near, we are calling on local councillors to do everything they can to ensure our older loved ones are not abandoned.”

Latest figures for the city show that it now costs up to £1,021 every year on average to heat our homes. Even before the cost-of-living crisis, 18% of our over 65’s were already in poverty. With few options to offset this increase in cost, it is older people who will struggle the most with the sudden rise in bills.

With the cost-of-living so high many will turn off their heating altogether, yet evidence shows that living in a cold home worsens health conditions associated with later life, such as Alzheimer’s and respiratory conditions.

Rising costs of materials are making repairs harder, and some households have put off repairs for several years because of Covid. The condition of a property impacts on the well-being of those who live there, with a cold and damp house likely to cause significant health issues.

For vulnerable older and disabled people, there is support available. Care & Repair Western Bay’s Caseworkers can visit older people at home and provide free advice and support on home energy saving techniques and housing improvements.

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Care & Repair Western Bay Senior Caseworker, Sandra Davies, said: “Many of my clients are extremely worried about the energy prices and the cost of living. Even my own 85-year- old father has cut right down on putting the heating on and will have an extra jacket and blanket on in the house due to the price increases. A lot of clients are also still fearful of going out due to Covid. One couple I met today have not been anywhere in the last two years and feel that their mobility and mental health have suffered.”

In Swansea and Neath Port Talbot, Care & Repair help over 6,500 older people each year, and complete over 6,000 vital repairs and adaptations so that clients can continue to live safely and independently at home.

Last year, these repairs cost nearly £1.8m. Care & Repair is able to help with the cost of works from funding received from Welsh Government, local authority, and other funds, accessed on behalf of their clients.

A major piece of advice being given by Care & Repair to older people is to make sure to claim the benefits you are entitled to.

According to the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales, over £200 million of Pension Credit went unclaimed in Wales last year. Each year, Care & Repair Western Bay help hundreds of older people claim the benefits they are entitled to, raising around £1.2m extra income per year for their clients.

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If you or an older loved one needs repairs, adaptions or help with keeping your home warm, contact 01792 798599 or visit www.careandrepair.org.uk/western-bay.

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Energy

New research reveals the top ways Brits are trying to keep a lid on soaring household energy prices

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From going to bed earlier to taking quicker showers and using a slow cooker instead of an oven – GoCompare reveals the measures people are taking to try and save on their energy bills at home

New research from GoCompare Energy has found that 83% of bill payers have seen their energy costs increase since the cost of gas and electricity has gone up exponentially.

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The research, which also asked more than 2100 people how they’re trying to curb costs around the home in light of these increased costs, shows that over two-thirds (64%) of those surveyed have started turning off the lights when they leave a room, making it the top measure people are taking to save money in the home. Other tactics included going to bed earlier, using the tumble dryer less and doing laundry at night.

Of the list of options provided, the top ten ways people are trying to save on their energy costs around the home were:

1Turning off lights when they leave the room                             64%
2Turning off appliances when they’re not being used / in standby mode54%
3Not filling the kettle to the top                             45%
4Washing clothes on a lower heat setting                             39%
5Having quicker showers                             36%
6Changing light bulbs to LED bulbs28%
7No longer using the tumble dryer                             24%
8Making the house more energy efficient                             19%
9Going to bed earlier                             18%
10Using the slow cooker instead of the oven                             17%

Just 10% of those asked said that they weren’t implementing any of the energy saving measures listed in the survey.

Other ways people are looking to save on their energy costs included doing the laundry at night(16%) visiting friends and family more (8%), spending more time in the office (5%), and 5% of people say they’re getting solar panels fitted.

Gareth Kloet, of GoCompare Energy, said on the findings: “With 83% of people feeling the impact of rising energy costs, it’s no wonder that lifestyle habits around the home will have been impacted. Some of these measures will undoubtedly help to keep increased costs to a minimum but there are obviously limits to the changes that people can make.

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“With the warmer weather hopefully on its way, we are now approaching the time of year when people traditionally use less energy, and some people may be feeling like there’s a bit of breathing space before the colder weather sets in again. But it’s important to remember that these habits can only be a good thing longer term – not just when it comes to saving on your bills, but also on the environment.

“If the market does return to some sort of normality and we start to see energy costs decrease, we would absolutely recommend that people continue with some of these changes longer term. Being aware of the way that energy is consumed in the house can only be a good thing and will be important to maintain even after things have improved in the market.”

For some other tips on how to save energy, visit this guide: https://www.gocompare.com/gas-and-electricity/guide/energy-saving-tips/

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Carmarthenshire

Carmarthenshire has fifth highest energy bills in UK according to new data

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Carmarthenshire will be amongst the worst hit by soaring energy costs, as research reveals it has one of the highest energy bills in the whole of the UK.

Households in Carmarthenshire pay £958 to their energy bills every year – over £200 more than the average UK bill (£757) and over £500 more than the UK area with the cheapest bills: Tower Hamlets in London.

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The research, by insurance experts A-Plan Insurance used new ONS data to analyse the energy bills in every local authority in England and Wales, to discover which region had the highest energy bills, and would be worst affected by the 54% increase in energy bills in April.

The Isles of Scilly in Cornwall had the most expensive energy bills, coming in at an average of £1,227.

Ceredigion in Wales has the UK’s second-highest bills (£1,092), and Welsh areas such as Gwynedd (£1,016), Carmarthenshire (£958) and Powys (£953) also dominate the UK’s top ten most expensive areas for energy.

At the other end of the scale, Tower Hamlets in London enjoys the UK’s lowest energy bills, with residents paying just £423 a year towards energy – over £300 less than the UK average.

Newham in London is the UK’s second cheapest area for energy bills, with households paying £458 a year for their energy. The City of London, Hackney and Southwark also have significantly cheaper energy bills than the rest of the nation.

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A spokesperson for A-Plan Insurance commented on the findings: “Energy bills are already sky-high and with bills soaring by a predicted £600 in Spring, it is those homes which are least energy efficient which will suffer the most from rising bills, as escaping heat will mean that your heating system works harder to compensate for the lack of warmth, costing you more.

“The government is advocating heat pumps as a solution to soaring energy bills, but these will not be effective without proper floor insulation – which 65 percent of homes in the UK currently lack. While households can use some hacks to insulate their homes better, for example, buying inexpensive pipe insulation from a DIY store, unless something serious is done about the energy crisis, we will see many more households driven into poverty.

“Although the government is introducing an ‘Energy Bills Rebate’ where energy customers will have £200 knocked off their bills, this functions as more of a ‘loan’ or a ‘buy now pay later scheme’, according to Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis, who points out that families will have to pay back the loan in equal instalments of £40 a year.

“Some energy suppliers offer hardship funds, where you can get up to £750 off your energy bills if you are living in fuel poverty, so if you are struggling, it’s worth checking if your supplier offers this”

UK’s most expensive areas for energy bills  

UK area  Rank  Average annual energy bill (£) 
Isles of Scilly 1,227 
Ceredigion 1,092 
Eden 1,056 
Gwynedd 1,016 
Carmarthenshire 958 
Powys 953 
Ryedale 939 
Pendle 937 
Derbyshire Dales 936 
Richmondshire 10 933 
UK average    757 

UK’s cheapest areas for energy bills  

UK area  Rank  Average annual energy bill (£)  
Tower Hamlets 423 
Newham 458 
City of London 474 
Hackney 486 
Southwark 504 
Islington 512 
Greenwich 527 
Dartford 539 
Lewisham 555 
Brent 10 556 
UK average    757 

(Lead image: Getty)

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