Energy costs have been right at the centre of news for many months now, as electricity, home heating oil and gas prices have risen sharply. As we move into the colder months, there will be more need for heating and lighting in our homes, and we have been looking at how everyone can make energy savings and cut costs.
Energy Saving Week, which you’ll have been following across social media this week, comes at an important time, and it is right that the range of organisations, including NIFHA and housing associations, have come together with a pro-active campaign to promote smart ways for households to help make savings.
For the social housing sector, we recognise just how difficult and worrying the energy crisis, and the wider cost of living rises, are for our tenants. Bills are rising without any corresponding rise in incomes for households. Government action on bills and other support programmes will hopefully be forthcoming, and must provide much needed support for struggling families.
What Energy Saving Week has aimed to do is to highlight the small changes that can be made, that will have a direct impact on tenants’ bills. The cumulative impact of a range of actions can help make savings over long periods and help tackle climate change. What these small actions tell us is how we can be wasteful of energy, and only now that the cost has gone up significantly are we really taking stock of how we use energy.
Simple things – switching off appliances at the plug when we are not using them, which is most of the time in many cases, or turning off lights when you are not in the room, are free – they don’t cost anything and will help reduce energy bills. Similarly, taking a shower rather than a bath, and cutting down the time you are running hot water, be it the shower or the sink when washing dishes, will also save money.
With heating, turning the thermostat down 1 or 2 degrees will still heat the home, but will use less oil or gas. Other tips, such as replacing lightbulbs with energy efficient LED ones, or adding reflective panels behind radiators, will have some up-front cost but will bring savings in the long term.
As they have been sharing on Twitter and Facebook this week, housing associations are supporting tenants in a range of ways, and we want to see longer term measures, such as large scale, deep retrofitting of existing homes to help improve energy efficiency and reduce tenant’s running costs, and new build being developed to the best available energy and sustainability standards. But there are significant cost associated with this, and, while this will require additional financial support, there are real benefits it will bring, not just in bringing down household bills, but it will also bring benefits to health and wellbeing.
We’re proud to support Energy Saving Week and help the 58,000 tenants our housing associations provide good quality homes for, but this is only the start. We call on Government to commit to helping social housing tenants with a comprehensive retrofit support package akin to that being delivered in Great Britain so we can future-proof our homes and help meet net-zero ambitions.
Local energy saving information can be found at https://energysavingtrust.org.uk/campaign/energy-saving-week-ni/