The partnership between Energy Saving Trust, Everwarm and Changeworks has not only seen thousands of homes receive energy efficiency upgrades, but created more than 300 new jobs, including 60 apprenticeships. Better still, it requires that all employees in its supply chain are paid the Living Wage.
There certainly doesn't seem to be a lot to argue with. We spoke to Contract Director at Warmworks Scotland, Ross Armstrong, to find out just what has made the scheme such a success so far, and what's in the pipeline to build on the progress made.
He explained: “We’ve been able to work at pace and be flexible in our approach. We got the business mobilised from a standing start to full operational delivery in just 16 weeks, which meant that we often had to be innovative and solve problems quickly, and what’s key is that we’ve been able to maintain that approach as the rate of referrals has grown and activity levels have increased.”
But energy efficiency has humans at its heart. Has the scheme been able to reconcile a need for speed and efficiency with keeping people happy and informed?
“It’s been really important for us to consistently focus on our values and on constantly improving our delivery model, all of which is built around our customers, as numbers have gone up – passing the landmark of 5,000 customers completed whilst still getting high levels of great customer feedback has shown that we can deliver both at scale and at the right quality.” Ross Armstrong, Contract Director, Warmworks Scotland
Fuel poverty is a major issue in Scotland, with well over 30 per cent of households struggling to heat their homes effectively and affordably. So are the Scottish Government setting stern targets for the scheme, and are there limits on what can be achieved? Ross explained:
“There are no set targets in terms of numbers, for us it’s more about responding to the demand that’s out there from customers in Scotland that are in or at risk of fuel poverty. The Government keeps the budget and the eligibility criteria for the scheme under constant review; we must make sure that we’re responding just as efficiently and effectively as ever as the scheme continues to grow and expand.”
The programme of work operates a ‘customer first’ approach in ensuring customers’ needs are addressed from the moment of referral through to the installation and inspection of energy saving improvements.
For installers involved, it presents an opportunity to grow commercially, professionally and, perhaps most importantly, reputationally – as work is delivered for vulnerable people who need it most, with the requisite high levels of care and support.
Ross said: “Our supply chain is made up of companies based across Scotland, from Stornoway to Eyemouth and from Thurso to Dumfries, we’ve got local installers that are trusted by our customers. They have seen their businesses grow as activity levels have increased on Warmer Homes Scotland, with new jobs being created and more than 60 apprentices involved in the scheme to date.
“We’re proud of the impact that the expansion of these businesses – both financially and in terms of the long-term skills and development they’re getting – will have in local communities.”
Community impact has always been a vital component of any energy efficiency scheme, whether national or local. While upgrades can bring comfort, happiness and easier financial management to households, the long-term chance to build a 'green economy' from the grass roots is a tantalising knock-on effect available for a scheme done well.
“The impact of our work in local communities is a critical part of our delivery. Every day, we are creating jobs, providing opportunities for skills and apprenticeships. We recognise that these positive changes have to be sustainable in the long-term, and the Scottish Government keeps our wider communities work under constant scrutiny and review to ensure that we are making a meaningful difference in the work that we do.” Ross Armstrong, Contract Director, Warmworks Scotland
Warmworks Scotland is proving a successful model for getting energy efficiency upgrades to those that really need them. There may well be valuable lessons learned here, not just for Scotland, but the UK at large and beyond.