Rising energy costs combined with low incomes are leaving many households struggling to heat their homes this winter. Nigel Brady, Director of Bryson Energy, gives us an insight into some of the work it does to assist households across Northern Ireland.
Bryson Energy is Northern Ireland’s regional energy agency and one of the largest and most successful of 380 pan-European energy agencies. It is part of the Bryson Charitable Group, Northern Ireland’s leading social enterprise, and works with a wide range of partners. Our long-term aim is to assist in the eradication of fuel poverty primarily by energy-proofing homes across Northern Ireland. Our model of social enterprise integrates into the government framework for reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, increasing comfort levels and reducing energy costs for households.
Fuel poverty: making a real difference
Fuel poverty currently affects over 40 per cent of Northern Ireland homes. It is the result of the complex interplay between three variables: energy inefficient homes, low incomes and high fuel costs. At Bryson Energy, we work with people to address these issues and in the last year we advised over 15 per cent of Northern Ireland households.
We are one of two scheme managers for the Warm Homes programme, which is our largest service contract, and is one of the central elements of the Executive’s Fuel Poverty Strategy. In the last year we insulated 5,438 homes. We also upgraded 415 heating systems and handled over 32,000 calls to our Warm Homes free phone number, providing advice and support.
We are also the leading provider of impartial energy advice to Northern Ireland households. In the last year, we handled over 34,000 telephone calls and referred 14,000 households to energy saving grants. Our home visiting team made 9,000 visits to Housing Executive tenants while our Education team delivered 260 school presentations to 12,400 school children. We also processed 2,500 energy-related grants, valued at £700,000.
Tackling low incomes
Findings from an independent evaluation report by the University of Ulster into Bryson Energy’s benefit assessment work found that clients who made a successful benefit claim were entitled to an additional £2,448 per annum, equating to an extra £47 per week.
This money could go a long way to help tackle low income, one key element of fuel poverty. In the last year, we completed 6,400 assessments which found 47 per cent of households were potentially entitled to unclaimed benefits totalling in excess of over £5.6 million. We presented to government the report’s recommendations on encouraging householders to take the next steps in claiming the benefits to which they are entitled.
Social enterprise model
Through our social business model, we deliver a significant number of our services through our installer network, using local experienced and accredited companies. This helps ensure scheme revenue is spent in local communities, benefiting the local economy and directly supporting upwards of 50 jobs.
No-one should underestimate the often hidden hardships that many households face as we approach winter. Bryson Energy will continue to work in partnership to provide whatever help it can to assist the households of Northern Ireland with their energy costs.
Key Facts 2011/2012
- Advised 115,000 households on energy-related measures.
- Directly employed 50 staff working across Northern Ireland.
- Indirectly supported an additional 50 jobs through our sub-contracting model.
- Achieved over 90 per cent customer satisfaction from householders.
- Operated to ISO quality standard accreditation in Quality (9001), Environment (14001) and Occupational Health and Safety (18001).