by Robin Morris (on behalf of Low Carbon East Oxford)
The Low Carbon East Oxford study on fuel poverty in Oxford was included in the Chesshire Lehman report, Understanding Fuel Poverty. We were at the report launch at the House of Lords last month.
This journey started in 2013 when Low Carbon East Oxford were awarded DECC funding for a LEAF project, looking at opportunities to reduce energy use in privately rented properties. This involved training of volunteer assessors and surveys of 200 properties, with detailed investigation of 50 of these. Findings from this Landlord Energy Saving Scheme (LESS) project were presented to then minister Greg Barker at a Low Carbon Oxford event. The main outcomes were small measures, such as radiator reflector panels, draught treatment, shower heads and loan of electricity monitors to offer further advice. We promoted insulation schemes – which were still freely available – and the Landlord Energy Saving Allowance tax relief.
LCEO focused attention on the intersection between climate change, energy use in the hone and limited scope for agency in the private rented sector. In practice, our activities have been targeted, for the last couple of years, at thermal imaging in cold spells and loan of electricity monitors – to help people to find ways to reduce their energy use at home. We also have been working with Oxford City Council and the Oxfordshire Affordable Warmth Network.
As the first figures for new low income, high cost definition of fuel poverty came out for 2012, it was clear that significant numbers of people in east Oxford were recognised as being unable to access affordable heating. Also the area has particularly high penetration of private rented accommodation and if hard to heat properties. We wanted to investigate further and to make use of some of the data collected in the LESS project.
We were alerted to the excellent work supported the Chesshire Lehman fund and applied for a small grant. We had an opportunity to discuss the main report findings last November, at the CLF conference. Headline commentary was extracted and included in the research synthesis report presented at the House of Lords on 6 July.
We hope that this will influence targeting of policy support, regulation and energy company obligation to better reflect those in private rented accommodation.