EU Sustainable Energy Week Events

Author: Sam Hubble

Next week (13-17 June 2016) is EU Sustainable Energy Week.

This scheme aims to encourage activities and events that raise awareness of energy efficiency and renewable energy generation, and provide advice, help and inspiration for individuals and organisations to use energy in a more sustainable way.

There are a variety of talks, workshops and events happening across South East Wales and further afield in the UK and Europe. The Twitter hashtag #EUSEW16 is full of links to events, comment and other related news.

We are also taking part, by running drop-in advice surgeries across Newport and Monmouthshire. The video above explains when and where these events will be taking place. Further info on these events, as well as other local talks and workshops, can be found on Monmouthshire Eco Open Doors’ website.

If you’d like to find out a bit more about how we can help you switch suppliers, access grants, liaise with utility companies, manage energy debts and more then come along to one of our drop-in events, or get in touch via Twitter, Facebook or our phone line 01633 223111 (Mon-Fri 09:00-17:00).


Are You Eligible For A Free Replacement Boiler?

Author: Sam Hubble

You may be eligible to receive a FREE boiler replacement under a scheme that we are running in conjunction with British Gas and Local Authorities.

Read on to find out more about the scheme, and if you may be eligible…


Boiler installationWhy are British Gas providing free boilers?

British Gas, like other major UK energy suppliers, are legally obliged to meet targets set by government under the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme. This scheme – which runs until March 2017 (explained in this video) – requires large suppliers to deliver energy efficiency measures within UK homes, which helps to contribute towards tackling climate change and fuel poverty.

Each individual supplier is allocated a proportion of the overall ECO targets, which is determined by their share of the domestic gas and electricity market.

Within the ECO scheme (alongside two other obligations) is the Home Heating Cost Reduction Obligation (HHCRO). This requires suppliers to promote measures that improve the ability of low income or vulnerable households to heat their homes. As a result repairing faulty boilers or replacing inefficient boilers with new, efficient models can help to make heating in the home more affordable.

To meet their HHCRO targets, British Gas is providing free replacement boilers for households who meet certain criteria (explained below). It is worth noting that you do not have to be a British Gas customer or buy anything from them, so if you meet the eligibility criteria you should qualify, irrespective of who your supplier is.


What is the eligibility criteria?

Whilst the scheme aims to reach and help thousands of households across the UK, there are a number of criteria that you have to meet to be eligible.

  • The scheme is only open to people who own or privately rent their homes. (Landlord permission is required before a survey can take place).
  • Eligibility is dependent on whether you are in receipt of certain qualifying benefits. A list and explanation of these can be found here.
  • Your current boiler needs to be suitably inefficient to qualify for replacement with a more efficient model. More specifically, if your boiler is less than A or B rated in terms of efficiency (and if you meet the other eligibility criteria) you should qualify for a new, A rated replacement.


Energy Performance LogoBoiler Efficiency –     As a general rule of thumb, most boilers under 10 years old are likely to be A or B rated, with older models likely to be C rated or below. However, the efficiency of boilers varies across makes and models, therefore age alone is not sufficiently accurate as a predictor of efficiency. The Home Heating Guide website has a boiler efficiency database. If you know the model and make you should be able to find out the efficiency of your boiler.

 How can we help?

The scheme is open nationwide. If you live outside of South East Wales, and think that you may be eligible for a free replacement boiler you should get in touch with British Gas by calling 0808 256 5909. Alternatively, you can contact us (via phone, email or Twitter) for advice on how to apply.

If you live in South East Wales we are able to help fast-track and manage your application, and would encourage you to call us on 0800 622 6110. We are working with British Gas, Newport City Council and Monmouthshire County Council to deliver the scheme.

In addition to assisting your application for a replacement boiler from British Gas, we are able to answer various questions you may have relating to the scheme, and to determine whether you are likely to be eligible.

We are also able to provide advice on accessing other schemes such as NEST, and can provide assistance through our own Healthy Homes project – which promotes various measures to help people afford to adequately heat their homes to a safe, healthy level. Going through us therefore increases your chance of a successful application for a boiler replacement, whilst also providing access to other schemes which you may otherwise miss out on.

Once your application has been processed, healthy homes logoBritish Gas will get in touch with you to arrange a time and date to perform a survey. After the survey has confirmed that you are eligible for a free replacement boiler a follow-up booking will be made for the replacement installation to be carried out.


What should you do now?

If you think you may eligible, contact us on 0800 622 6110. If possible, try to find out the make and model of your boiler before calling, along with a list of benefits that you receive. If you rent your home from a private landlord it is also useful to have their name and contact details available as British Gas will need to confirm their permission before undertaking a survey.

If you are unsure if you may be eligible, or if you need your boiler repaired, or if you would like advice on a range of other home efficiency improvements or general energy saving advice, then get in touch with us and we will try to help.

On a final note, it is useful to highlight an obstacle that many schemes such as ECO, HHCRO and other projects that aim to tackle fuel poverty face. Often the people or households who are most in need of assistance and could benefit from schemes like this are also the hardest to reach. Social isolation, mistrust of organisations and a lack of access or the inability to apply for schemes are some of the reasons that make it difficult for people to make the most of these opportunities.

For this reason, if you have family members, friends or colleagues who you think are eligible for this scheme, or could perhaps benefit from other schemes or advice, encourage them to get in touch. As a charity formed to increase the energy efficiency of homes and tackle fuel poverty across South East Wales, we are able to provide help in a range of ways.


Pre-Payment Meters: Our Answers To Your FAQs

Author: Sam Hubble

Recently we’ve been doing a lot of public outreach and have been offering advice and answering queries on a wide range of energy-related subjects.

Something that repeatedly pops up is the confusion surrounding pre-payment meters (PPMs), and the debate over whether a PPM may be the most appropriate form of payment for individuals in different circumstances.

According to the Department of Energy and Climate Change there are approximately Four million homes with PPMs installed. As such, we thought it would be helpful to use this blog to briefly cover the basics and steer you towards sources of information to further discover whether they may be beneficial to you.

As always, if you’ve got any queries or would like advice, call us on 01633 223111, Email or Tweet us.

Some of the most common questions we get asked are answered below.

What are PPMs? How do they work?

With prepayment meters you have to pay for gas and electricity before you use it – a bit like a Pay As You Go mobile phone. You may use a token, key or smartcard to ‘top-up’ at recognised PayPoints or Post Offices. Some suppliers also offer smartphone top-up (via an app, text, online or over the phone).


Why are they installed?

Suppliers may install a PPM if householders get in to debt or don’t stick to payment plans. Some landlords may also opt for PPMs to reduce the risk of being left with outstanding debts after tenants have moved out.

In some circumstances you may be able to refuse having a PPM installed. For more information check out this article from Citizens Advice.

What are the pros and cons of PPMs?

The main advantages of using a PPM are that they can help people to manage their energy usage and as a result prevent unexpected bills, which then helps to manage and avoid debt.

piggy banks debtThey can also enable arrears to be slowly cleared by suppliers taking off an agreed amount when credit is added to the meter. NB: For this reason if you move into a property with a PPM it is important to register as the new householder ASAP otherwise you may pay the wrong rate that was originally set up for the previous occupier’s debt repayments.

For these reasons, when used appropriately they can be very useful in assisting people to use energy most effectively without getting into financial difficulties.

However, there are also drawbacks that need to be considered. People using PPMs generally pay more for their gas and electricity due to standing charges and a lack of access to the cheapest energy tariffs available. According to Money Saving Expert the cheapest PPM tariff costs around £1025/year, whereas the cheapest tariff available for credit customers costs roughly £750/year, a difference of approximately £275/year.

The other main drawback of PPMs is the risk of supplies being cut off if you fail to top-up your meter. Whilst there is usually an ‘emergency’ buffer to provide some protection from instant cut off due to an empty account, this amount is often only £5 or £10, meaning that once this has also been spent the supply will be cut.

                           Can I switch suppliers if I use a PPM?

ovo energy app screenshotYes. Most suppliers have pre-payment tariffs, which can vary as much as standard tariffs. It is worth investigating if you could change suppliers as you may be able to save a large amount of money.

This article provides an overview of PPM supplier switching and how new schemes such as OVO Energy’s Smart PAYG scheme and App are changing how people use and pay for their energy. Get in touch with us if you’d like more info on how to switch energy suppliers.

NB: It is important to note that even if you switch suppliers and find a better-value PPM rate, if you use a PPM you are still likely to be paying more than cheaper tariffs that are only available to customers who are willing and able to pay via Direct Debit.

Can I remove a PPM?

 The short answer is yes. Indeed, if you feel that a credit meter better suits your needs and financial situation (perhaps obtain sound financial advice to determine this) then removing your PPM will enable you to start accessing better tariffs.

 The longer answer is yes, but the process may be complicated and slow, and is dependent upon your circumstances (such as who supplies your energy, how long you have been a customer, how long you have lived in your current property, and whether or not your supplier believes you will be able to keep up with repayments – often determined by a credit check). You will also usually have to demonstrate that you are prepared to pay for your gas or electricity by Direct Debit, and some (though not all) suppliers may charge to remove a PPM (typically about £50).

 As is the case for many topics, Money Saving Expert have produced an excellent article that explains in more detail how to go about switching from a PPM to a credit meter.

So there you have it, a very brief overview of Pre-Payment Meters and an attempt to answer FAQs people have about them. If you’d like any more information or advice please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us, that’s what we’re here for!


Our Favourite Social Media #EnergyHacks

Author: Sam Hubble

We’ve set up this blog to be a resource for people who are looking for energy saving tips and to provide a more interactive platform to supplement the info we have on our website.

We’re also keen to use it as an opportunity to have a bit of fun and let people engage more, so we asked our social media followers about the weird and wacky ways that they try to save energy in the home.

Using the #EnergyHacks hashtag on Twitter we received a range of responses. We’ve shared some of the best below.

Some took the opportunity to create a romantic vibe whilst simultaneously saving energy, while other ideas showed true ‘thinking outside the box’ ingenuity.

energy hacks tweets

Others demonstrated the lengths that some people are prepared to go to cut down on their energy bills. We’re not sure how safe or recommendable cooking with an iron, hairdryer, dishwasher or other appliance is, but it is certainly different – and dedicated!Pizza on Iron

Whilst we enjoyed some of the more unusual ‘out there’ suggestions above, there were also some really useful ideas that are worth considering in your own home.

Making sure that your freezer is tightly packed ensures it works at optimum efficiency. An added bonus is that in the unfortunate event of a power cut, your food will stay frozen for longer.

Check out this article to explain how this – and other energy-saving tips in the kitchen – works.


Follow Elton’s advice: Find draughts using a Candle In The Wind

Another useful suggestion involved using a candle flame to identify draughts along windows and doorframes. Obviously care needs to be taken with a naked flame, but this can help to find draughts that may be difficult to pick up by sight alone.


In addition to the more well-known offenders, letter boxes and keyholes can be sources of draughts. Draught excluders and keyhole covers are cheap and can be easily fitted, and are well worth the investment to both save you money and create a warmer, more comfortable environment.

Energy Hack tweets

A final draught-related tip involves chimneys. Unused open fireplaces enable heat to escape, however, Chimney Balloons can help to reduce this heat loss and are also reasonably cheap and easy to fit. Just remember to remove these if you decide to light a fire!

If you have any queries about draught-proofing, energy-efficiency or other energy-saving tips, please get in touch.

Also, if you’ve got any more #EnergyHacks, share away. We’re keen to find out more about the novel and interesting tips people have.

Below are a few links with more information on quick and easy measures you can take to cut down on the energy you use in the home:


Dinosaur wearing scarve energy hacks tweet

Extra layers and wrapping up warm may make it more comfortable to heat your home less and save money

NB: It is also worth double-checking tips you receive as many myths surrounding energy-saving exist, as this article shows. You don’t want to waste time or money following bad advice.










Tackling Fuel Poverty

Author: Sam Hubble

Fuel poverty is a major challenge that has significant social, environmental and health implications – particularly in the winter months as heating bills inevitably rise to combat the cold. This post aims to shed light on what fuel poverty is, the opportunities and barriers involved in trying to tackle it, and how we at SEWEnergy are working towards helping those most in need.

What Is Fuel Poverty?

In the simplest terms, fuel poverty is the situation that many households or individuals find themselves in of being unable to afford to keep their home adequately heated.

Fuel Povery picture - friends of the earth

Source: Friends of the Earth (

The traditional definition used by policy-makers was “a household is considered to be in fuel poverty when it needs to spend more than 10% of its income on fuel”.


However, in 2013 the Department for Energy and Climate Change updated how fuel poverty is measured in England and Wales. This new definition considers households to be in fuel poverty if:

  • They have required fuel costs that are above average (the national median level)
  • Were they to spend that amount they would be left with a residual income below the official poverty line

This definition change was designed to provide a more accurate measure to help to identify the vulnerable households. Like many political developments, this change received both praise and criticism as the implications for various stakeholders were discussed (for a balanced debate see this Carbon Brief article).

Thermal Image of House - smart green

Source: Smart Green (

Whilst the way fuel poverty is defined can have important implications for official statistics – and as a result the development of policies that aim to tackle the problem – at SEWEnergy we are able to work at a more local level (concentrated in South East Wales), enabling us to focus on the individual circumstances of vulnerable households.


As such, there are three main factors that influence fuel poverty, which we aim to be able to help people with:

  • The energy-efficiency of the property
  • Energy Prices
  • Household income


How Can Fuel Poverty Be Tackled?

There are a number of ways that fuel poverty can be tackled:

Energy Efficiency:       The energy efficiency of homes can be improved by installing  insulation and modern, efficient heating systems. Draught proofing and replacing appliances and light bulbs with more efficient models can also help.

Energy Prices:                 Accessing the most suitable energy prices can often reduce annual fuel bills by hundreds of pounds. Schemes such as the Priority Service Register and Warm Homes Discount can also provide financial (and other) assistance. We recommend considering switching energy suppliers, and can provide free, impartial advice to those who want help.

Household Income:     Maximising household income – both through advising on and facilitating employment opportunities, and checking that households are in receipt of benefits they are entitled to – can help to reduce the financial burden of struggling to pay the bill.

Schemes such as Welsh Government’s Nest, ECO Energy Wales, and our Healthy Homes project provide advice on how to save energy, access grants and improve the efficiency of your home. Get in touch with us on 01633 223111 to see how we can help.


Obstacles To Tackling Fuel Poverty – And How We’re Trying To Hurdle Them

Advice Surgery ImageUnfortunately it is often the case that the most vulnerable households are also the hardest to reach. It can be difficult for people to know what help is out there and how they can access it. Many vulnerable people have no internet access, may be housebound and have little means of contact with organisations like us who are trying to help.

Our Healthy Homes project is trying to change this, by working with organisations with direct access to at-risk households, and also undertaking community outreach to try to identify people who we can help. Throughout February we have held advice surgeries, and we will be holding others across Newport and Monmouthshire in the near future.

Get in touch if you would like an event to be organised near you, and come along and/or call us on 01633 223111 if you think we can help you or someone you know.


Welcome To The Blog

Author: Sam Hubble

A warm welcome to our brand new blog. It is a space for us to share news and comment about developments in the energy arena, and how these may affect our everyday lives.

We’ll also share advice on how to save money, reduce energy use and lessen our impact on the environment.

 Who Are We?

The Team

The Team

To get a more in-depth idea of who we are and what we do visit our website. For now though, all you need to know is that we’re a charity who provide free, impartial advice on ways to tackle fuel poverty, poor health, and climate change.



 Why Have We Set Up The Blog?

Energy seems to be taking on a more prominent role in modern life.

Welcome Blog TagulMedia coverage is full of stories on fuel costs, climate change, new technologies, consumer rights and many other aspects that are interwoven with energy. Furthermore, schemes promoting home energy-efficiency measures, along with the proliferation of price-comparison websites mean that there are now more ways to potentially save energy – and (perhaps) more importantly money – than ever before.

This barrage of (sometimes contradictory or conflicting) information can often make it difficult to work out what steps to take when trying to reduce energy use. That is where we come in.

While we spend a lot of time working closely with local authorities, social housing providers and directly with householders across South East Wales, we are also keen to be a resource for the wider, online community.

We encourage you to follow and interact with us on this blog, our Twitter and Facebook accounts, through our website, and via our phone lines. We enjoy the challenge of providing advice on a whole range of energy-related topics, so get in touch to see how we can help you!