It’s now a year since Change Works in Peebles began testing new approaches to energy efficiency with the local community. Funded by Changeworks, Scottish Borders Council, and the Scottish Government, the project helps reduce energy costs and improve warmth in local homes, schools and businesses.
Following the Peebles pilot, Changeworks is now delivering pilots funded by Energy Efficient Scotland on behalf of local authority partners in Burntisland, Penicuik, City of Edinburgh Old Town and Argyll.
We spoke to Donna Marshall, Senior Project Manager of Changeworks’ Low Carbon Communities team, to find out more.
How do you feel to be celebrating Change Works in Peebles’ first birthday?
We’re delighted to reach this one-year milestone. This has been a busy, exciting year for everyone involved, including the community and our partners at Scottish Borders Council.
We’ve had over 1,500 visits from householders and local businesses in the first year and look forward to building on this in year two.
What are your highlights from the first year?
In October 2018 we held a flagship solar energy event in partnership with Home Energy Scotland and Resource Efficient Scotland. This was a one-stop shop for householders and local businesses to get all the advice and support they would need to install renewable technologies, and connect them with local solar installers.
Another highlight was a visit from Paul Wheelhouse MSP, Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, who came to Change Works in Peebles last June to announce new funding for energy efficiency projects across Scotland. Scottish Borders Council was awarded additional funding to allow the partnership to continue until March 2020, and extend the coverage to help communities across the whole Tweeddale area.
What’s worked well?
Our changing programme of events has been a real success. Each month, we focus on a different energy-saving theme, and most of our audience is new each time so we’re always reaching more people.
This month we have an LED lighting campaign with free LED bulbs, and we’re still offering real-time energy monitors for loan to help people see how they’re using energy at home.
Have there been any challenges?
A major element of this project is support for the self-funded market. It can sometimes be challenging to encourage change that requires an upfront investment. We work closely with our partners in Home Energy Scotland to promote interest free loans, and support people looking to install energy efficiency measures in their own homes.
We also found homeowners and businesses in the Borders struggled to find appropriately qualified installers for energy improvement work. We now offer a list of recommended contractors.
What has been the reaction from the local community?
Very positive! We’ve had lots of people coming back several times, so it’s been brilliant to see their journeys. I love hearing stories of how families are embracing different energy efficiency challenges – like kids using 4-minute shower timers and trying to beat their time!
What have you learned from the first year that can be applied to the other Energy Efficient Scotland projects?
We’ve tried to make the project responsive to the community and build in flexibility to adapt to what people need. We found that people came to us for advice on all sorts of issues, not just energy efficiency. Having a network of wider Changeworks services and other support within the community to tap into has been very useful.
The other projects Changeworks is involved with this year are all in different rural and urban areas with different needs, so this flexibility will be important them too.
What’s next for Change Works in Peebles?
We’re growing! We’ll be expanding to Tweeddale, which means supporting a much bigger population and geographical area. We’ll be offering more outreach activities, rather than working just from the hub, and hosting more events in other towns.
On 29 May 2019, we’re hosting a big free event on renewables, where all are welcome to come along to learn about using renewable technology in their homes. ‘What’s the deal with renewables?’ takes place in Lamancha Community Hub from 5:30pm-7:30pm. You can sign up online.
We’ll also have another event in the autumn on improving warmth in older homes.
And if you’re in the Tweeddale area and want to find out how we can help you, sign up for hints and tips about energy efficiency.
Donna Marshall, Senior Project Manager of Changeworks’ Low Carbon Communities team