Using a thermographic camera to show where heat loss is occurring.

Cumbria is a large and sparsely populated county, which has traditionally made it a challenging place to set up wide-ranging schemes to install insulation and other efficiency measures in homes.

Cumbria Energy Efficiency Advice Centre (CEEAC) has been successful in marketing the advantages of energy efficiency, arranging funding for discounts on installations, and then managing contractors to deliver a rapid, high-quality service to the customers. In the past two years this has resulted in the insulation of over 9,200 cavity walls and 5,300 lofts and a range of other measures. The result is savings of over 12,500 tonnes/year of CO2, over £1.6 million/year in reduced fuel bills for the households involved, and homes that can be comfortably and affordably heated in the winter.

Context

Improving the efficiency of energy use is often the most cost-effective way of reducing carbon emissions. There is significant potential for improving the efficiency of homes in the UK, in particular through cavity wall and loft insulation, which are very cost effective. Improved efficiency also makes homes more comfortable, and can bring significant health benefits to people who were previously unable to keep their homes warm. It is for these reasons that there is both national and local grant funding to help with improving the efficiency of homes.

Cumbria is a large and sparsely populated county, and it has proved difficult to create programmes for installing insulation and other energy efficiency measures in this type of area. It is difficult to get information to householders, and sometimes too costly for installers to travel long distances to make a single installation. There are significant numbers of houses that are not yet properly insulated, but not all the owners are aware of the need to insulate and the savings they could make, or how to go about the process. Also, many are not aware of the grants and discounts that may be available. Cumbria Energy Efficiency Advice Centre (CEEAC) initially just provided advice on energy efficiency, but found that more was needed to achieve a significant uptake of energy efficiency measures. CEEAC has therefore established an integrated programme to provide advice, funding and installations throughout Cumbria.

Mrs. Campbell with her heating timer installed after advice from CEEAC.

The organisation

Cumbria EEAC is part of the Community Services Directorate of Carlisle City Council, a local authority within Cumbria. It was established in 1996 to serve Carlisle, and Suzanne Burgess the current Manager was its first staff member. Under her direction, CEEAC had its remit extended to the whole of Cumbria in 2000, and expanded to managing installations as well as giving advice. The centre currently employs 12 people, some on a part-time basis. The goal of Cumbria EEAC is to increase the energy efficiency of households throughout the region, and it receives grant funding from various sources to enable it to do this.

Technology and use

CEEAC provides energy efficiency advice and arranges for the installation of energy efficiency measures and improved heating systems. These are all standard measures, in particular cavity wall insulation and loft insulation, which are easy to install in suitable existing properties, and are very cost effective. Between 1998 and 2004, CEEAC arranged insulation for between 3,000 and 4,000 homes, but the scale and scope of their work has expanded greatly in the past two years. In this short period of time, they and their contractors have installed cavity wall insulation in over 9,257 homes, and provided loft insulation for 5,350 homes and 750 hot water cylinder jackets. They have also given away over 8,500 low energy light bulbs, and carried out small programmes to install solar hot water heaters and air source heat pumps. 

Standard glass mineral wool cavity wall and loft insulation are used. In cavity walls this is installed by contractors who drill holes in the brickwork, blow in the insulation and fill in the holes. Loft insulation is supplied in rolls. It can be installed by contractors, but in some cases CEEAC provide insulation materials, protective gloves and instructions for householders to carry out a DIY installation.

How users pay

There is a bewildering range of grant support available for improving energy efficiency in homes including national funding programmes, as well as funds provided by local authorities for work in specific geographical areas. Further funds may also be available for households with particular needs, and for particular technologies.

A key role of CEEAC is to access and manage these different sources of funding, and make them easily accessible to households who come for advice. Where possible CEEAC works in a specific area at a time, so that marketing and installation can be targeted, and local awareness created which boosts interest. Within Carlisle, where a programme is currently running, CEEAC began by identifying the council wards with highest fuel poverty, using the Fuel Poverty Indicator database provided by the Centre for Sustainable Energy, another Ashden Award winner, supplemented by local knowledge. Some households are eligible for free efficiency measures, and funding sources are managed so that some grant is available for every type of household. When a householder contacts the CEEAC help line, a quick assessment can be made of how much they would need to pay, followed by a referral to the appropriate contractors for a survey visit and installation. 

CEEAC has installed new boilers in households that have gone up to six months without heating and hot water.

Typical prices to householders are:

  • Cavity wall insulation – from free to £125. In 2006 nobody paid more than £75
  • Loft insulation – from free to £125. In some areas with greater fuel poverty, if a household did not qualify for free installation, Cumbria EEAC arranged for free insulation materials to be delivered with protective gloves and instructions for the householder to install it themselves.
  • Solar thermal panels – these were initially subsidised by £400, giving a selling price of £2,250.
  • Once the market was primed, the subsidy was removed.
  • Air source heat pumps – installation costs are £6-7,000.

The advantage of the way that Cumbria EEAC works is that whenever they start in a new area they have something to offer everyone, whether it is free installation, a grant or free materials for DIY installation. This leads to a positive attitude towards the organisation, and also to the issue of insulation and efficiency, with no perceived “unfair” favouring of certain households over others. Rates of uptake are often very high. For instance in one Carlisle ward over 75% of suitable houses have been insulated, and most of these were in private ownership where it is often more difficult to persuade people to have measures installed.

Benefits

Environmental and economic benefits

The work of CEEAC has clear environmental benefits. Using average factors for energy and carbon savings for different efficiency measures developed by the Energy Audit Company (another Ashden Award winner) CEEAC estimates that the measures installed in the last two years alone are reducing emissions of CO2 by over 12,546 tonnes/year and saving householders over £1.6 million/year in fuel costs. The programme has cost a total of £4.1 million. £1.3 million has come from the EEAC/Carlisle City Council, about £400,000 from household contributions and the balance from EEC funding and other grants, making it highly cost-effective.

Social Benefits

For many householders, adding insulation can improve health, by making it affordable to heat homes properly in winter, and also by reducing damp. For some specific households in the region, CEEAC has proved to be a real lifeline, arranging for quick installation of heating systems in the event of old systems failing, and providing grants to make new and efficient heating systems affordable for people still depending on coal to heat their homes. 

The work of CEEAC has brought about 20 new jobs to Carlisle, mostly for insulation installers and also within CEEAC itself.

Potential for growth and replication

There are still a large number of households in Cumbria that could benefit from low-cost insulation measures and upgraded heating, and most are eligible for some level of grant assistance for installing energy efficiency measures. CEEAC estimates that still only about half the suitable properties have cavity wall insulation. There is significant demand from householders, and CEEAC is currently expanding the installation rate to keep up with this. There is also significant potential for the work of CEEAC to be replicated by energy agencies within other local authorities across the UK. The key points to be replicated are their efforts to ensure that some level of funding is available to all people in a target area, and their work in managing contractors to deliver rapid high quality service.