Last time we talked about the energy crisis, why our energy costs are rising so quickly and going so high. We also mentioned some of the effects this may have on society and people’s health. The one thing that is important to remember in all of this is that is that there is a link that runs through any debate surrounding energy and its use, and that is Climate Change. You will note that I use the term Climate Change and not Global Warming and may be asking why. The reason is very simple, Climate Change is the disease and Global Warming is a symptom along with glacial melting and extremes of weather.

CLIMATE CHANGE

The term Climate Change was unheard of until an amateur scientist named Guy Callendar in 1938 used the term after his calculations showed that humans were putting enough carbon dioxide into the atmosphere to increase the World's average temperature. Others had made similar claims in previous years but they had been dismissed. Callendar, however, had the advantage of recent data and decades of new data and a model which he was allowed to present to the British Meteorological Society.

The changes from the influence of human beings (anthropogenic) on nature, that were beginning to be understood or at least investigated are still with us today. Although we are more knowledgeable about the cause and effects, we, as a species, still pump carbon dioxide and other gas pollutants into the atmosphere. The result is that the climate continues to warm and the effects of that have been only too visible over the last couple of years. Increasing drought, extremes of heat, some extremely cold winters, flooding and wild fires.

The statistics’ available for the area of forest burned and wildland fires for Europe in 2022 makes for some sobering reading. For the UK, to August 2022, 20,423 hectares had been burned. The average per year between 2006 and 2021 was 6,100 hectares. This will come as no surprise when we have experienced one of the warmest and driest years on record so far. Ukraine have been badly affected with 413,394 hectares burned in 2022, the average previously was 17,674 hectares. Several other countries have been very badly affected, Spain, Romania and Portugal to name just a few. Will this happen every year? No-one can say for certain but for decades extremes of weather and the resulting consequences have been spoken and written about. One important thing to remember is that every single tree and plant that has been turned to ash has released the carbon dioxide stored within it while growing adding it back to the atmosphere.

At the time of writing in Pakistan there is untold suffering and death from the flooding that has inundated some areas of that nation. The unprecedented monsoon rains have caused flooding of the Indus river. Starting in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, spreading South through Punjab, Balochistan and Sindh. They have affected 18 million people and so far, 1,985 people have lost their lives. The number of homes lost or destroyed stands at 12 million and 2,2 million hectares of crops have been lost. Homes alone have not been destroyed and it is estimated that 10,000 schools have been damaged or destroyed. Many households own or keep animals and an estimated 450, 000 livestock have been lost. The floods in Pakistan show how climate change can affect one of the poorest nations in the World with some of the most dramatic and horrific devastation that we can witness.

There are still people around the World that do not believe climate change is a thing. The evidence on show this year with the extreme weather events and the devastation, loss of life and destruction should tell them otherwise. Switching from fossil fuels to greener alternatives is a must or we will continue to see and experience events such as those this year and probably worse.

We are all aware of the rising cost of living and especially the soaring cost of heating our homes. This becomes more important to us all living in Scotland and the coming winter months where the vast majority of us will rely on gas to keep us warm. Many people are still asking “why are energy bills rising?” The answer is that in February of 2022 the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (OFGEM) stated that they were increasing the cap on the prices that the energy companies can charge the consumers by 54%. A cap is a form of regulation that limits the prices that utility providers can charge their customers. The cap allows oil and gas companies to ‘pass on all reasonable costs to customers, this includes the cost of buying gas’. With the increase in global prices it was inevitable that prices were going to rise but, the size of the increase is eye watering.

There is no easy fix, no silver bullet because things have gone too far already. But there are things that we can do to help with the rising costs of energy. And fortunately Grampian Housing Association (GHA) has an energy adviser, David Barr, that can help with some free advice that may help keep your fuel costs down. We are fortunate to have a landlord that does care about its tenants. Many of us will have had work done over the last few years to help keep our homes warmer. Projects have included additional loft insulation, cavity wall insulation and new uPVC windows and doors and some of us have been fortunate to have had Photovoltaics (PV) solar panels installed on our roofs as well as storage batteries in some cases.

A staggering fact is that 87% of households in the UK rely on gas to heat their homes. This makes the UK susceptible and vulnerable to the rise in global gas prices. Long gone are the days that the UK was almost self-sufficient for domestic energy supplies. Where we used to be an exporter, we are now a net importer of fuel including Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), Natural Gas, Crude Oil and Electricity. We import Crude Oil and Natural Gas liquids from Norway, mostly, followed by the USA. After decades of failings by successive governments to invest in insulating existing properties and the failure to heavily invest in renewable energy initiatives has left us with some of the worse insulated properties in Europe. When facts such as these are added to how the war in Ukraine has disrupted fuel supplies to our European neighbours because of embargos placed on Russia and its money making machine it should not come as a surprise that prices were going to rise for us the consumer.

The overreliance on fossil fuels had to and must end at some point because they are a finite resource. But the financial pain and hardship that the current state of affairs has put on society will definitely be felt by those that can least afford it. With some very difficult choices to make this winter between eating and heating many health experts are predicting an increase in some kinds of health conditions this winter to include respiratory infections, bronchitis, stress to the cardiovascular system, asthma symptoms becoming worse or developing and the ever present threat to people’s mental health.

 

Understandably the Association is concerned that many of our tenants are at risk of fuel poverty. With inflation rising to its highest level in 40 years and the increase in the energy price cap, some tenants are having to choose between heating their homes or feeding their family. There seems to be no let up either with further increases expected to be announced later in the year causing an estimated 211,000 homes across Scotland to be at risk of being plunged into fuel poverty. Never have our tenancy sustainment services been more stretched, in particular our Energy Advice Project.  

Help with bills 
We have a number of funds and access to funding which we are using to provide tenants with energy top ups and food vouchers. However, these pots are not limitless and we need to continue sourcing funding to ensure our tenants get the help that they need and do not have to make impossible choices.

Carol Reid, housing operations lead explains:- "Many people may feel lulled into a false sense of security during the summer months as they may be spending less on energy bills whilst also accessing some of the monies from various Government interventions such as discount on council tax or various utility cash back schemes, freeing up a bit of cash for other essentials which have increased in price such as food and fuel.

"However, we believe that we need to get the message out now to encourage tenants to plan now for Autumn/Winter to give them a bit of a “cushion” when the colder weather and further increase in costs hit.

"We have set up an Energy Crisis Focus Group so that we can be proactive in our approach to alleviating fuel poverty and helping our tenants through these challenging times. An action plan has been agreed and we will ensure our frontline staff are equipped with the skills and knowledge to provide advice to our tenants or identify where further support is needed. By doing this we hope to alleviate some of the stress and burden placed on tenants during these difficult times.

"A number of events and promotions will take place during the coming weeks with regular updates being posted on both our website and Facebook page to communicate the action plan and engage with tenants.

"Our 2021 Resilient People, Resilient Places, tackling poverty strategy was created to highlight our commitment, as a social landlord, to tackle poverty and inequalities. We recognised the need for a strategy to ensure that as an organisation we understand the challenges our tenants are facing and we are proactive in our approach to supporting those who are vulnerable and most in need."

Contact the Energy Advice Project now!
Call David Barr, Energy Adviser or email to book your appointment.
T: 01224 202934 | E: energy@grampianhousing.co.uk

Energy efficiency
We must also remember that if our tenants are not able to heat their homes adequately, this will impact on the fabric of our buildings, so as a socially responsible landlord we must consider how we can make our properties more energy efficient over the coming years. We are therefore arranging energy efficiency and property condition surveys over the summer to ensure we can validate which measure best suits each home to lower utility invoice costs and we are committed to continued investment in tenants’ homes to improve insulation and energy efficiency.

We are running a number of pilot projects to help us understand the benefits of low carbon power and heat which will include a decarbonisation project and making more use of solar PV and battery power. By fitting environmental sensors as part of any upgrade we will be able to monitor the real time benefits of the technology we are using, creating better maintained, healthier and energy efficient homes.

Our commitment to energy efficient homes also extends to our new build programme with any new developments from 2024 set to meet 2045 targets for energy efficiency. In addition to this, they will achieve at least a “B” Energy Performance Certificate rating and domestic heating and hot water will come from a zero-carbon heating source.

About Grampian Housing Association
As a socially responsible landlord we recognise that the provision of high-quality affordable homes can have wider social and economic benefits for the communities we serve in the North East of Scotland. In short, as a social landlord we go over and above our traditional remit of housing to make a real, tangible and long-term difference to meeting all other social policy objectives, like health and social care, child poverty, an ageing population, employment and education.

 

Aberdeen City will be affected by union members taking strike action between Wednesday 24 AugustThursday 1 September and between Wednesday 7Saturday 10 September.

Aberdeenshire strike action dates are between Friday 26 August & Monday 29 August and between Wednesday 7 September & Saturday 10 September.

While the full impact of this is unknown, all waste and recycling collection services, both domestic and commercial, may be affected and it is likely that some bins will not be emptied. 

Our Property & Estate Management Team are taking a proactive approach at all our factored schemes in asking our contractor to monitor the situation and if bins are at capacity they will be emptied.  This will help to maintain the cleanliness of our schemes and deter vermin.

CStirrat

Grampian Housing Association and its subsidiaries have concluded a successful recruitment process with Craig Stirrat being announced as the new chief executive officer of the Grampian Group (comprising Grampian Housing Association, Let’s Choose Leasing and TLC Housing Maintenance).

Craig, who has been Grampian Housing Association’s chief operating officer since 2018, will step up into his new role at the beginning of April 2022.

Abhi Agarwal, chair said: “Craig’s appointment as CEO is testament to the great talent we have within the Grampian Group.

“We conducted a rigorous recruitment process during January and February and were delighted by the response from many high calibre candidates.”

Having joined Grampian Housing Association in 2014, as director of business development, Craig has considerable knowledge and experience across many aspects of social housing and social care. He was previously head of service with Aberdeen City Council, director of of a national body and more recently a director with Fife Housing Group.

Commenting on his appointment Craig Stirrat said: “I am delighted and honoured to be entrusted to the position of CEO of the Grampian Group.

“It is my job to ensure that our tenants, customers and the communities we serve as well as the talented people in the Grampian Group remain at the forefront of our business and I look forward to continuing to drive the Group to deliver excellent customer focussed services and value for money affordable homes.

“At a time when many households are facing the challenges of an increased cost of living, I will aim to ensure that tenants feel they are being listened to and that we do what we say we are going to do to help them, for instance by improving the quality and energy efficiency of homes including through renewable energy and assisting with access to fuel support funds to tackle fuel poverty.

“As a charity with a strong moral compass and values underpinning this, the challenge to do better and more for those we are here to help has never been more important.”

Craig’s appointment comes at an important time for the Grampian Group as it moves forward in 2022 to launch the “Grampian Deal”, a customer first initiative being developed in liaison with tenants to deliver great service, great results and great value for money.

Services have already been redesigned through the creation of the role of Neighbourhood Officer. With smaller areas, staff are able to get to know tenants better and services can be tailored to the needs of tenants or neighbourhoods based on their feedback.

A new approach to digital services is being implemented for those who wish to access services in this way.

It is people who make an organisaiton and the Grampian Group is committed to being a great employer through continued investment in learning and development and sector leading initiatives around wellbeing.

Grampian is the largest housing provider based in the North East of Scotland, serving over 3,600 social rent and mid market rent households, along with over 1,000 factored owners and almost 500 sharing owners throughout Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and Moray. It has a substantial development programme of new build homes and is committed to adding 600 properties to its portfolio by 2024 to play its part in addressing significant unmet housing need in the area.

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