Funding ‘energy champions’

‘Digital exclusion is a major issue.’

Central England Quakers (CEQ) are supporting a joint fuel poverty project to create a network of ‘energy champions’.

Chris Martin, a Cotteridge Quaker, asked his Local Meeting to support the concern in a bid to help the energy and climate crisis. The project is being funded by around £4,000 this year, with money from the Area Meeting going to the CEQ’s Climate Emergency Action (CEA) group. Around twenty to twenty-five people have registered their interest in taking up the role.

Chris Martin told the Friend that setting up the network has taken them ‘straight into the heart of the energy and poverty crisis’ and highlighted the issues of digital exclusion and overstretched energy advisory services, which are exacerbating the crisis. The group has so far created a set of flashcards ‘which provide “conversation starters” into the enormous information available from Citizens Advice and Energy Saving Trust. Digital exclusion is a major issue, on top of the high energy costs,’ said Chris. ‘If you don’t have good internet access and your mobile phone is ropy, with data limits, it makes it much harder. So much of the way customers are expected to interact with their energy suppliers is electronically-based.’

Chris also highlighted the injustice of pre-paid meters, where people pay a higher electricity rate. Energy advice services are overstretched, such as Groundwork’s Green Doctor, which they hoped to refer difficult cases to. ‘It’s not just the poorest who are struggling with the cost of living,’ he said. ‘It’s creeping into young families with mortgages, and people who’ve never had to wrestle with these kinds of problems.’

The areas where they have made most progress are in ‘places of warm welcome’. ‘That’s where people are coming together to have a chat and a cup of tea. It’s easier to introduce the initiative into conversations; rather than putting up a notice, which puts many people off. It’s really quite subtle how you engage.’

The joint initiative is funded by CEQ and Footsteps. The website is

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