Saturday, 15 March 2014

The Weekend Read: How to save money on your Energy Bills

The cold is still with us. With nights still long and cold mornings, residents across Tynedale sometimes really struggle to heat their homes. Turning the heating on is, for many, the only choice. Yet, doing so is becoming increasingly costly. Increasing fuel prices are leaving homeowners feeling the pinch and residents are faced with a difficult choice; save money or stay warm.

I have long been campaigning against fuel poverty. It was back in January 2011 that I first said families face the choice between ‘heating or eating’. For some time I have thought we should try and bring together all the key info, and the key local suppliers, in one available online and physical booklet.

Now, to help those who struggling with their fuel bills, I have tried to do something practical, and produced a guide to assist households across the constituency. The booklet, entitled ‘How to save money on your energy bills’, provides clear and concise advice outlining what help is available and how to access it.
I am very conscious, talking to many of my constituents, that energy costs and fuel are a real concern. There is lots of help already out there but it can sometimes be hard to find and difficult to know who to turn to. This guide is designed to help make homes more energy efficient and make my constituents aware of what extra support is now available.

The booklet presents a range of solutions on how you can stay warm and save money. Basic techniques, ranging from cavity wall and loft insulation, using energy efficient light bulbs and checking your boiler, are discussed.
There is a wealth of information on the available funds that many households can claim. Information on the EDF Energy Trust, British Gas and Npower energy funds are provided. Calor’s rural fuel poverty initiative is also explained [and I have to record my thanks to Calor for helping make the Fuel Poverty Guide possible].

There is also information on the Warm Home Discount Scheme, winter fuel payments, surviving winter fund and much more.
Renewables / Biomass:
Biomass boilers are, for instance a great way to generate heat cheaply. More than that, home owners can claim the Renewable Heat incentive once they have installed a biomass boiler – which could earn them up to £7,000 per year for 7 years.  
I know the fight against fuel poverty will not be won with a single booklet. But I do hope that it goes someway to provide a bit of extra support and guidance for those struggling with the cost of energy this winter.
The Centre for Green Energy, based in Hexham, is a leading supplier of biomass boilers. They helped with the booklet and their director, Allister Marsh, said: "We are absolutely delighted that Guy is spearheading this campaign against fuel poverty. The Energy Booklet is designed to help residents to make their home more energy efficient and make them aware of the available support. As biomass experts we are passionate about the cost saving benefits of wood heating systems, and we are pleased that the booklet carefully explains the benefits of the Government led Renewable Heat Incentive to householders. We fully support Guy in his campaign to publicise the enormous problem of the cost of increasing energy bills, and applaud his efforts in writing and distributing a useful information source.
We look forward to giving advice to any householder who wishes to understand more about the alternatives to expensive fossil fuel heating".
For those in the most rural parts and live off-grid, oil buying clubs are an excellent way to save money. By joining a club, members can buy supplies in bulk and share the price, thus reducing the cost greatly. The MP works very closely with the clubs, and has often sung their praises in the House of Commons.  
Oil Buying Groups:
Information on a number of our many groundbreaking oil groups is provided in the booklet. There is potentially one for everyone in Tynedale, and they will defintely save you money if you are buying heating oil.
The Haydon Bridge Oil buying Co-op, for example, has 170 households at present and is continually growing. Steve Ford, the HBOBC co-ordinator, believes that ‘it is not the government’s responsibility to provide cheap energy but everybody’s responsibility to take action to reduce their own energy consumption and this booklet helps a lot.’
‘By acting as a group we do exert influence on the suppliers. A socially cohesive community has power that individuals do not.’
Christina John, general administrator at the Allen Valleys oil buying club, said, “This is a comprehensive booklet which includes some very useful sign-posting.  As well as general information about saving money on energy bills, there is information in here that I suspect not many people will be aware of and certainly isn’t easy to get hold of.  Hopefully constituents will benefit from the contact details given. ‘

Thousands of the booklets are being distributed across the constituency, again at no cost to the taxpayer, with the hope that those who need this information most will receive it.

Alison Rees, Domestic Fuel Adviser for the West Northumberland Citizens Advice Bureau said ‘Help is available for those who are struggling to heat their homes affordably and this booklet is a useful guide for taking steps towards a warmer home.’
I stress this booklet does not have all the answers but I know it can help. You can download it here:
I cannot thank enough all the businesses, volunteers and others who have made it happen. This is our first year of a booklet that has taken a long time to come together.