Workmen installing a solar thermal panel on the roof of Pinmore ceramics gallery, who have received advice from the Energy agency, Ayrshire

Throughout the UK there are many schemes working to improve the energy efficiency of homes and tackle fuel poverty. Often they are targeted at those in receipt of benefits and those where the money will yield the greatest return, but this leads to low take up.

The Energy Agency has tried to reach all households in rural area by offering 100% subsidy on basic insulation measures and above-average grants for other measures.

The free cavity wall insulation has made our house much cosier, and now that we have solar panels we have enough hot water for a bath whenever we need it.

Mrs Torbutt, resident

Background

The largely rural area of South West Scotland has high unemployment and low incomes. There are more than 15 wind farms operating or under construction in the area and others awaiting approval. Although not compulsory, it is usual when a wind farm is built to establish a fund for the local community.

The 120 MW Hadyard Hill wind farm, near the communities of Dailly, Barr, Pinwherry and Pinmore, was built at a cost of £85 million by Scottish and Southern Energy. In addition to the community fund of £120,000 per year, it was decided to set aside an extra £300,000. The Energy Agency ran a programme to use this money for reducing energy demand and tackling fuel poverty in the communities, by providing free insulation to all suitable houses and other energy efficiency actions.

Workmen prepare the roof of Pinmore ceramics gallery for the installation of a solar thermal panel. The owners have received help and advice from the Energy agency, Ayrshire

The organisation

The Energy Agency was established as a registered charity in 1999 and covers South Ayrshire, North Ayrshire, East Ayrshire and Dumfries and Galloway in Scotland. It works with local authorities, communities and schools to save energy, increase the use of renewable energy and tackle fuel poverty. It also runs the Energy Saving Scotland Advice Centre for the areas. In 2010, it had 30 staff and an annual turnover of £1.1m.

The programme

How does it work?

The Energy Agency generated interest in the project by producing thermal images of each house, indicating where heat loss was highest. The aim was to persuade households to sign up to the free insulation offer.

Doorstep energy surveys were carried out in all 748 households using locally recruited and trained surveyors. The surveys recorded details (building type, heating fuel and system etc) which were used to a report on their energy efficiency and ecological footprint for each household. The household also received energy saving advice and two low energy light bulbs. Feedback suggests good response to this advice.

Hadyard hill wind farm in South Ayrshire has 52 wind turbines. It generates over 120MW of zero carbon electricity supplying enough electricity to power 80,000 homes

Measures requiring a contribution from the household have also been installed, including insulation of sloping ‘coomb’ ceilings and solar thermal water heating. Funds from the wind farm have also insulated community buildings and small businesses were also insulated, and grid-connected solar PV systems installed in the local schools.

How much does it cost?

The insulation programme cost £200,000. Insulation for each standard cavity wall and loft cost about £400 and these measures were provided free. Insulation for coomb ceilings averaged £940, and households had to contribute about £250. Solar water heaters cost about £3,700, and the household had to contribute about £1,270.

Solar PV systems were installed free of charge to the schools, with 50% funding from the energy fund, and 50% from the Low Carbon Buildings Programme.

Children at Barr primary school play the energy game in their playground

Installation and quality control

All the surveyors used by the project were trained to ensure they fully understood the programme and were able to deliver a quality service. The surveyors were trained to carry out energy surveys, gather data for use with NHER (National Home Energy Rating) software, and refer households for benefits checks.

The installers were already qualified and accredited. The insulation contractors maintained quality control by checking 10% of installations. The Energy Agency carried out a separate customer survey following the work and feedback from householders was very positive for both the overall scheme and the installers.

Benefits

The programme achieved a very high take-up, by using a focussed approach to the community and offering standard insulation measures for free. More than 63% of the total households surveyed had at least one insulation measure installed (compared with typically 10-20% for a subsidised insulation scheme). By the end of the programme, contractors had installed insulation measures in 393 lofts, 87 cavity walls and 244 outer doors.

Installing a solar water heater

Coomb ceilings were insulated in five houses, and solar thermal water heating in six. Insulation was also funded for nine community buildings and five small businesses, and 2.5 kWp solar PV systems were installed in the three schools.

Environmental benefits

The insulation resulted in an estimated 21% reduction in energy use, saving about 6.3 MWh per year per household, or 2.6 GWh per year in total. This is equivalent to a saving of 744 tonnes/year of CO2. Energy efficiency advice will have led to further energy and carbon savings.

Other benefits

Householders benefit from reduced fuel bills, with savings averaging £178/year per household. Homes have become warmer and less damp, both of which contribute to improved health, in particular reduced risk of respiratory disease. Some residents have started using rooms that were previously too cold in winter.

Solar water heater

The solar PV installations in the schools have encouraged pupils and parents to think about energy and the environment, and the wind farm fund enabled the Energy Agency to visit the three local schools to run lessons on energy issues.

Thermal imaging gave an unexpected benefit. Some housing association residents noticed how much heat was escaping through their single-glazed windows from their thermal images. With this evidence, they persuaded the housing association to install doubleglazing.

Two local people were employed for the survey work, and kept on to work on further projects when the Hadyard Hill programme was completed.

The energy survey also referred people who were interested to a local charity that checked on entitlement to benefits, and eight households received substantially increased benefits.

We had all the loft insulation done in the studios and we also had insulation in the house beefed up to modern day standards. Almost from the outset, you noticed the difference. You would walk in and the residual heat from the kilns or the heating from the day before was still evident where before it would have just disappeared.

Keith Dawdry, resident and potter

Update: what happened next?

There is significant potential for replication of area-based insulation programmes using community wind funds or other funding sources. Scottish and Southern Energy used the Energy Agency to manage a similar project in Girvan, an urban area with 3,500 homes in South Ayrshire. Scottish Power is facilitating another project targeting 800 private-sector households in Lochside, Ayr, by supplementing its CERT commitment.

The Energy Agency used its Ashden Awards to produce materials on how the Hadyard Hill project work, targeted at community groups. They visited ten individual community groups, and three organisations representing multiple groups, to explain how they might develop a similar approach to energy efficiency. As a result of this a further five projects were launched, targeting over 7,000 households in eleven communities.

A review of the Hadyard Hill programme by WWF Scotland highlighted the costeffectiveness of an area-based approach for delivering energy efficiency to rural communities.