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Morriston the first hospital in Wales to develop its own solar farm

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Morriston Hospital will become the first in Wales to develop its own full-scale solar farm, at a cost of £5.7 million.

Work is expected to start early next year on the 4MW development on land at Brynwhillach Farm, linked to Morriston by a 3km private wire.

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It will supply almost a quarter of Morriston’s power, cutting the electricity bill by around £500,000 a year and significantly reducing carbon emissions.

The solar farm will comprise 10,000 panels across 14 hectares of land. For comparison, the Morriston Hospital site is 18 hectares.

Swansea Bay has been awarded a total of £13.5 million for the solar farm and other energy-saving and carbon-reducing measures, repayable on an invest to save basis.

Following an extensive selection process, the health board selected Vital Energi as its partner.

Morriston Hospital (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

Swansea Bay UHB Chair, Emma Woollett, said: “Our health board takes seriously our responsibilities to future generations by reducing our environmental impact and in particular cutting our carbon footprint.

“I’m especially delighted to see the hard work and commitment of our dedicated estates staff being rewarded in being the first health board in Wales to go green in such a pioneering yet practical way.

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“Cutting our carbon footprint and cutting costs is a win-win for the health board, our patients and taxpayers.”

Swansea Bay spends around £6.9 million a year on electricity, gas water, and sewage treatment. This is expected to rise year on year, at a rate higher than inflation.

The investment in the solar farm and energy-reducing schemes will lead to a minimum guaranteed saving of more than £1.5 million a year. It will also reduce carbon emissions by around 3,000 tonnes a year.

Health board Assistant Director of Operations, Des Keighan, said the project was being delivered in two phases.

“The first phase was a range of energy conservation measures at Morriston and Singleton hospitals, and other health board premises.

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“These included changing the majority of light fittings, and improving the insulation, lagging and upgrading building management systems.

“The second phase is the development of the solar farm, which will enable us to produce our own electricity.

“At peak production times this will meet the electricity demand for the entire hospital, whilst reducing our carbon emissions.

“This is in line with the Welsh Government’s commitment for the public sector to be carbon neutral by 2030.”

The energy conservation measures have been carried out throughout 2020 and will be completed early next year.

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Work on the solar farm development is due to start in the early part of 2021 and should be operational by the end of the summer.

Mr Keighan added: “We will be the first health board in Wales to develop its own solar farm.

“It has been very challenging. However, with a lot of hard work from our project team, which included the Welsh Government and other key partners, we have managed to secure the development.”  

Swansea Bay Chief Executive Tracy Myhill said: “As well as keeping our hospitals and facilities running 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, for our clinicians to deliver patient services, this is another example of the way in which our estates teams are making a huge contribution to our patients and communities.

“I commend everyone who has made this project a reality.”

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Vital Energi Account Director Phil Mottershead said: “We were delighted to be selected as the health board’s partner.

“Being able to deliver solar energy on this scale for an NHS site is an exciting opportunity.

“Combining it with other energy conservation measures makes this a highly innovative solution for the NHS.”

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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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