Saving students money and improving landlords’ properties
#EnergizeWorcester is an exciting opportunity to tackle the poor energy efficiency of privately rented student houses, reducing energy consumption and in turn student bills.
The project is in two parts. One part of #EnergizeWorcester looks at behaviour and helps people to find ways of using less energy without losing comfort. This is done in several ways. One is to use trained and accredited student advocates to engage with peers. They will visit houses and write bespoke reports which show for example how the boiler controls work and how to set them to use energy optimally, or advice on moving a fridge away from a radiator so it doesn’t have to work so hard.
E-on is providing electricity and gas SMART meters free to some student houses in this project. A smart meter has a display which immediately shows you how much energy is being used, so when you switch that kettle on for a cup of tea, you can see how much boiling the water costs. You soon learn to put just the right amount of water in for the cups you need.
Not all houses in the project will get smart meters. The aim is to find the interventions that work best. Some students will take their monthly meter readings, either by posting a photo of the meters numbers or dials or by noting the numbers on a bespoke software platform specifically commissioned for the project. This software can tell students how their energy use compares to average houses similar in type to theirs, how their energy use compares from last month and includes lots of useful advice and tips.
To help engage students with the project, the team commissioned 3rd year Digital Media students as part of their course to design a campaign and website. The winning team, in just 24 hours, devised How Low Can You Go a limbo dancing themed campaign which has already proved to be a hit amongst students. They are posting selfie’s of themselves limbo-ing under things on and off campus. Student will receive regular incentives to encourage and reward participants.
The project team will also engage with landlords and looks at possible financing options available for them to make improvements to their properties, for example putting in new boilers or insulating lofts or wall cavities. To help identify what measure could be undertaken; again trained students will visit houses and do a survey. Software especially developed to help students calculate this is in place. Information about the house such as year of construction, depth of current loft insulation and boiler make and model, can be instantly uploaded. This gives a quick answer to whether it’s worth sending in a fully qualified surveyor. To identify potential properties and willing property owners is something the energy efficiency industry is very keen to know.
As if this wasn’t enough for this ambitious project, after trialling #EnergizeWorcester this year, the project runs again in Birmingham with Birmingham Students’ Union and Birmingham University. The stated aim of #Energize is it can be replicated in any University town or city.
The final part of the project concentrates on non-student landlords and non-student houses of multiple occupation. The partner in this is Transition Worcester who will help undertake the surveys and visits.