361 Community Energy…

a blog by DCF Amassador, Nicola Hobson…

When I opened the brief for this month’s blog I couldn’t believe how perfect the timing was!

I believe the timing is crucial for the planet and so unsurprisingly I have taken a greater interest in such issues, to the extent that I am currently involved with a political party environment working group, writing policy on our sustainable future. As part of my research I am reading Doughnut Economics by Kate Raworth – a ‘must read’ for anyone who cares about the planet’s future, the way we can live our lives better, a fairer distribution of resources and . . . well humanity itself.

The basic premise of Doughnut Economics is that between our social foundation of human wellbeing and the ecological ceiling of planetary resource lies the safe and just space for humanity to live sustainably.

361 logoSo, an organisation like 361 Community Energy is music to my ears. 361 Community Energy is a not for profit social enterprise whose aims are to promote energy saving and renewable energy in North Devon. Much of their work is carried out by a dedicated group of volunteers.

Activities and services including helping people to switch to cheaper suppliers, applications for social obligation discounts on water and electricity bills, billing/meter advice, free energy efficiency items (e.g. LED bulbs), and referrals for bigger measures such as heating and insulation.

With recent grants from DCF, 361 Community Energy has been able to make a difference to a lot of people. Here are some impressive stats:

• The Empower project has helped 1,754 people with one to one advice of which 865 people received a home energy visit

• The total savings for the community (for a two-year period of the project) was £238,050, which equates to £135 per person

A wide variety of other issues were also covered including referring people for income maximisation, budgeting, debt help and grants and/or loans to install energy saving measures. 

They are now getting support through partnerships developed through health and social related professionals who refer people directly into the Empower project. This is helping to raise the profile of the health impacts of living in a cold home and its contribution to mental health issues, often due to people struggling to pay bills and getting into debt.

They have raised awareness of fuel poverty in the area, which is above the national average, and won a national award for their innovative work on tackling fuel poverty.

Thanks to DCF funding, 361 Community Energy were able to do outreach events, in areas of high fuel poverty, for vulnerable clients. This included attending health & wellbeing support groups, older people’s coffee mornings, pop up stalls in supermarkets and medical centres, attending dementia groups and parental groups.

Organisations like 361 Community Energy are helping us to live in the Doughnut Economics sweet-spot between our social foundation and our ecological ceiling.