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Love your community, get energy fit together

Environmental behaviour change charity Global Action Plan (GAP) is supporting Big Energy Saving Week. In this guest blog, Partner Hugh Goulbourne, explains how to get involved.  Since 2010, the Big Energy Saving Week programme has raised awareness of the support programmes available for vulnerable consumers around the UK.

Taking control of household energy bills is a journey of a lifetime, not a week, and community groups of all sorts are a constant source of vital information and support. That is why we are really pleased to have support by the energy industry and Department of Energy and Climate Change, to put together a challenge that will support communities for the next six months. Our Big Energy Race initiative gives community leaders the chance to help their network (friends, family, sports team mates etc) get to grips with their energy bills. The race begins in January 2015 and race registration packs will be available from 27 October by visiting the website.recent publication by the Institute for Public Policy Research demonstrates that by 2030 households could on average save £99 a year through switching to more energy efficient appliances. 

At the same time, evidence suggests that energy efficiency engagement schemes, which are based purely on technology fixes and delivered through direct marketing measures tend to have a low take-up rate. This resonates with what energy companies, retailers and government have told us. It is why this week the whole energy industry, including the third sector, needs to start a new dialogue with households. Today, GAP will also join Energy Minister, Amber Rudd, and representatives from Smart Energy GB, the Energy Saving Trust and the energy sector at a Big Energy Saving Week event hosted by the All Parliamentary Group on Behaviour Change. All of those who attend are united in a mission to empower households, particularly those who are most at risk, to take control of their energy bills.

In the past 24 months, we have delivered projects with the Cabinet Office, DECC and the Welsh Assembly, all of which have proved what we knew, which is that many households feel powerless to act on their energy bills. From our experience of training and supporting more than 4,500 local energy champions, we know that what households want are a number of simple actions which they can take to reduce their bills.

We also know that households will respond best to energy advice if it is received from someone who they see with on a regular basis – for example, at their children’s school, at their sports club or as part of a faith group. Our vision at GAP is to empower individual households, using the power of peer-to-peer messaging, social norms and competition to help them to choose their own energy saving journey towards energy control. It is a model that, through our Eco-Teams programme, has been tested and improved from the original street based model to a virtual model that can be delivered and supported at scale. GAP has been helping thousands of households to save energy through both community-led and business-to-consumer programmes.

Twenty years of experience working with communities has taught us that the challenge for households to control their energy bills is as much about motivation and understanding as it is about technology. Twenty years of feedback from community volunteers tell us that they are willing activists for energy saving and energy advice, in their community.

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