As fossil fuel prices continue to rise, millions of households are threatened with “fuel poverty.” We might address this by controlling energy costs, raising household income, or challenging people’s notions about home ownership. In Kirklees, England an initiative focussed on household energy efficiency has had a significant impact on fuel poverty as well as employment and green house gas emissions.
In 2000 the nonprofit Kirklees Energy Services (KES) was established to manage energy in the metropolitan area. Half its costs were covered by SAVE, a European Union program committed to building local capacity to reduce carbon emissions. KES swiftly developed into a one-stop-shop for householders interested in insulation, draft-proofing, furnace upgrades, and other energy-saving measures. Credit unions offered preferential loans to householders. Local authorities and power utilities funded generous rebate programs. A stable of qualified contractors carried out the installations and paid KES referral fees.
In 2008, KES was able to put everything it had learned to work across a number of low-income areas. In three years, KES’ integrated, comprehensive strategy brought to households £9-10 million (C$16 million) per year in energy savings. Over 160 jobs were created. Annual carbon emissions fell by almost 55,000 tonnes. Every pound that local authorities and the national Warm Zones program invested in KES’ work was leveraged into five pounds in energy efficiency services. New partnerships are now building the local market for renewable types of energy.
These results dwarf those of Canada’s vaunted Eco-Energy Residential Retrofit Program. Can we learn from them?
This article is an excerpt from The Resilience Imperative: Co-operative Transitions to a Steady-State Economy, by Michael Lewis and Pat Conaty (New Society Publishers, June 2012).
This article is part of the i4 special series, Housing We Can Afford. It is produced in partnership with the BC-Alberta Social Economy Research Alliance (BALTA) and with funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).