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Calls for Welsh Government support for those off the gas network in Mid and West Wales

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Calls have been made in the Senedd for the Welsh Government to provide further support for those off the mains gas network.

Jane Dodds, the Welsh Liberal Democrat Senedd Member for Mid & West Wales questioned the Minister for Social Justice Jane Hutt MS in the Senedd this Wednesday, asking her to introduce at least a one-off payment for those affected.

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In the past fortnight, heating oil prices have risen from an already high 66.74 pence per litre to 148.25 pence per litre.

A 2019 estimate shows around 19 per cent of households in Wales are not connected to the gas grid, in Mid & West Wales this is 27 per cent.

Most households off the grid are reliant on more expensive fuels including oil and LPG. Neither of which, benefit from the same consumer protections or regulations as gas and electricity.

Across Mid & West Wales a high percentage of households are off the grid including:

  • 82.4% of households in Ceredigion off-grid with 11,407 households on oil
  • 67.7% of households in Powys off-grid with 17,335 households on oil
  • 63.7% of households in Gwynedd off-grid with 9,172 on oil
  • 56.7% of households in Pembrokeshire off-grid with 12,982 on oil
  • 49.7% of households in Carmarthenshire off-grid with 20,194 households on oil

Commenting Jane Dodds said: “While all households are facing major increases in their energy bills in the coming months, those off-the-grid households throughout Wales that rely on heating oil instead of gas or electric heating are seeing astronomical rises, without the protection of the energy price cap.

“Many are already being forced to make the choice between heating and eating and the astronomical cost increases facing those reliant on oil – without protection – is going to cause a huge number of people a lot of pain.

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“I’ve got residents across my region who are genuinely very scared about how they are going to fill up their next oil tank many of whom live in uninsulated social housing.

“This is affecting people right across the socio-economic spectrum, this comes on top of Conservative tax rises and cuts to universal credit.

“I am calling on the Welsh Government to issue a one-off payment to those reliant on heating oil and LPG to help them through this difficult time.”

(Lead image: Flickr / Jim Bowen / Creative Commons)

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Charity

Pembrokeshire charity recruits community fuel champions

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Pembrokeshire FRAME has received funding to recruit a community fuel co-ordinator and five volunteer champions as they look to raise awareness about energy efficiency, whilst tackling fuel poverty across the county.

The funding from gas emergency and pipeline service, Wales & West Utilities, will allow the charity to act as a community point of contact for those facing fuel poverty issues and will help to make a positive difference to local communities most in need.

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The employed advisor and five volunteer champions will help individuals claim benefits, provide debt management advice and make referrals through to Wales & West Utilities existing network of partnerships. They will also be able sign people up to the Priority Services Register (PSR), make referrals for specialist support with fitting Locking Cooker Valves and distribute free carbon monoxide alarms.

Gas emergency and pipeline service, Wales & West Utilities, has provided the funding as part of its Vulnerability and Carbon Monoxide Allowance (VCMA).

Paul Hughes, Chief Officer at Pembrokeshire FRAME, said: “This funding will allow us to deliver far-reaching benefits. Not only will it allow us to get into the heart of Pembrokeshire communities to help those most in need to gain specific advice on energy efficiency and gas safety, but it will allow us to provide employment and volunteering opportunities to local people.

“We are all feeling the impacts of the rising costs of living, and this funding will allow us to run a 5 day a week hotline for fuel poverty and carbon monoxide enquiries, whilst having face to face contact across communities.

“It’s great that Wales & West Utilities is supporting our efforts by providing this funding and we are hopeful that many people will benefit.”

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Pembrokeshire FRAME is a supported employment and life changing charity that transforms hundreds of lives in Pembrokeshire each year, by providing access to learning, supported and meaningful occupation, voluntary and employment opportunities and help and support to enable individuals to reach their potential. The community fuel champion will be based at the charity’s Merlin Bridge site, however, will also work in Pembroke Dock.

Tom Robinson, Social Obligations Specialist at Wales & West Utilities, said: “We’re delighted that this funding will allow Pembrokeshire FRAME to support the most vulnerable by providing vital energy efficiency advice and safety information.

“We are committed to doing everything we can to support those most in need in our communities. Working with trusted partners like Pembrokeshire FRAME means we can help more people stay safe in their own homes.”

Between April 2021 to March 2026, Wales & West Utilities has £7m to spend on projects which support consumers in vulnerable situations and raise awareness of the dangers of carbon monoxide and keep people safe from the ‘silent killer’.

Carbon monoxide (CO), known as the ‘silent killer’ because you can’t see it, smell it or taste it, kills 50 people a year in England and Wales and hospitalises many more. In the UK, there are more than 4,000 visits to Accident & Emergency for treatment of carbon monoxide poisoning – which can often lead to lasting neurological damage. Even low levels of exposure over an extended period can cause serious health issues, including brain injuries.

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Funding is made from the Vulnerability and Carbon Monoxide Allowance (VCMA), and 75% of the money will be spent on projects relevant to Wales and south west England only, while 25% will be spent on collaborative projects with the other gas networks across the whole of the UK.

(Lead image: Wales & West Utilities)

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Energy

Crowdfunder launched to transform Swansea into an ‘urban solar farm’

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Swansea BID (Business Improvement District) are nearing the halfway mark of the £14,000 target on their Crowdfunder campaign thanks to a generous pledge of £5000 from Swansea Council.

The Crowdfunding campaign was launched with the aim of funding a feasibility
study to see if Swansea city centre is a viable site for solar panels.

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“We want to create a more sustainable city, and we’re grateful to the Council for
pledging their support,” said Russell Greenslade, Swansea BID Chief Executive.

“Why not utilise unused space? We believe there’s so many good reasons to push
forward with this idea, especially given the rising costs of energy. If we can create a
greener space and generate our own energy, there’s potential to allow businesses
to form a consortium and use the energy they produce.”

“In the next few years, there will be a lot of change in terms of energy use and
production. We want to be part of that and push initiatives that will not only help
the environment, but the people who live and work in Swansea,” said Greenslade.

If the funding target is met, Swansea BID will commission Gower Power to
undertake the study and determine if utilising empty flat roofs to create an urban
solar farm is viable.

Discussing the proposal, Andrew Stevens, Swansea Council’s cabinet member for
environment and infrastructure, said:
“We’re pleased to pledge our support for the Solar Swansea feasibility study through
our popular Crowdfund Swansea initiative.

“The use of city centre flat roofs to generate power would help in the council’s aim
to make the city net zero by 2050.

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“Crowdfund Swansea is a platform where ideas can be shared, communities
empowered and funds can be raised to take projects forward for the benefit of our
communities.

“It’s a springboard for project ideas to attract the funding they need more easily,
whilst enabling everyone who cares about the area to contribute with pledges.”

If successful, the feasibility study findings would be published on the BID website,
and Swansea BID would push for funding from the government to commission the
project.

For more information, or to donate, see the Crowdfunder here:
https://www.spacehive.com/solar-swansea—a-feasibility-study?

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Urgent action required to tackle UK energy shortages and secure future energy production says farming union

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Urgent action is required now more than ever to tackle the UK’s energy shortages and to secure future energy production, the Farmers’ Union of Wales has agreed during a recent meeting of its Presidential Policy Team.

In his letter to the UK Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, The Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng MP, and Welsh Minister for Climate Change, Julie James MP, FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “During the previous decade, initiatives such as Feed In Tariffs were instrumental in increasing levels of renewable energy production in Wales and the UK at the fastest rate seen to date, with renewable energy produced on farms being central to this improvement in our nations’ energy security.

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“The risks of reliance on overseas energy are now more apparent than ever, and given this, FUW PPT members believe that urgent action is needed on both a UK and national scale in order to rapidly increase renewable energy production on farms, in a way that does not compromise food production.

“While responsibility for different elements of policy relating to energy production lie with the UK and Welsh Governments, PPT members believe that urgent action is needed at all levels of government to mitigate current and future impacts of our over-reliance on imported energy – whether, for example, in terms of the restrictions placed on those farming in our National Parks where sources of renewable energy abound but renewable energy initiatives are obstructed, or in terms of UK-wide policies that genuinely incentivise and reward those who are contributing to reductions in carbon emissions through renewable energy production.”

Given such concerns, the FUW believes that as a matter of urgency, barriers should be removed and initiatives enhanced in order to increase levels of renewable energy production on farms.

FUW President, Glyn Roberts

“PPT members also highlighted that one of the barriers to such renewable energy production was the cost of connection of viable schemes to the National Grid, and the fact that such connection fees often appeared to at the best capitalise on, and at worst obstruct, such initiatives despite them being in our nations’ interests.” he said.

In light of the above, Mr Roberts urged the UK and Welsh Governments to do all they can, and to work with colleagues in other administrations, to ensure that all actions possible are taken to further increase renewable energy production in Wales and the UK without compromising agricultural production.

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