News

 

Next New-Pin workshop: ‘Tomorrow’s World - Future energy and water consumers and citizens: what do their needs imply for national infrastructure, communities and the individual?  Building understanding amongst decision makers and capacity amongst public interest advocates’ - 18 July 2017.

Green Alliance publishes report on a National Infrastructure Scheme

In September 2016, Green Alliance published 'New markets for land and nature: How Natural Infrastructure Schemes could pay for a better environment’. The report examines how agriculture is under pressure to increase production, reduce its environmental impact and eliminate its dependence on public subsidy. Many farming businesses are operating at the limit of their profitability, often to the detriment of soil health, water quality and biodiversity. Farmers are in a unique position to restore and protect the natural environment, but there is no commercial basis for the provision of natural services from farmland. The report proposes a new payment mechanism, the Natural Infrastructure Scheme (NIS), which establishes natural markets to bring new income streams into farming, supporting a fundamentally different approach to land use, and makes recommendations for how the Government, alongside private endeavour, could accelerate the creation of these viable markets for ecosystem services.

Action taken as a result of New-Pin workshops

Taking action on affordability – WPD case study

In October 2015 the New-Pin project tackled the issue of energy affordability. The session focussed on long-term affordability and who should pay for new infrastructure, resilience improvements and the move to a low carbon agenda. A particular focus of the workshop was the long-term nature of affordability and looking beyond current price control periods for regulated sectors.

Western Power Distribution (WPD) used the learning from the session to develop their stakeholder engagement programme in a number of ways.

For the first time, in 2016 WPD engaged a broad cross-section of stakeholders about the issue of ‘affordability’, considering this separately from traditional focuses on consumer vulnerability to a power cut.

WPD have hosted annual stakeholder workshops since 2008, and feedback has helped to shape their business plans, including commitments to address consumer vulnerability and fuel poverty. In January 2016 WPD hosted events in six locations – Birmingham, Bristol, Derby, Lincoln, Newport and Plymouth. A total of 259 stakeholders attended, with representatives from all key segments of their customer-base, including local authorities, domestic customers, consumer bodies, businesses, developers, utilities and other energy network companies.

In 2015 and 2016, WPD’s workshops have focussed on discussing long-term strategic priorities for electricity networks. WPD’s stakeholders identified nine key priorities and ranked their importance, ranging from the development of smart networks to workforce renewal to tackling low customer awareness. ‘Vulnerability and affordability’ emerged as a key priority. This included WPD taking action to identify and support customers vulnerable to power cuts, but also to address wider social issues relating to energy affordability, including fuel poverty.

Ongoing engagement with stakeholders throughout 2015, including participation in Sustainability First’s New-Pin project, led WPD to consider ‘affordability’ as a separate strategic priority for the first time at their most recent round of events. Each workshop began with a context presentation from WPD’s Consumer Vulnerability Manager, followed by facilitated roundtable discussions and specific surgery sessions. Stakeholders were asked to review a number of proposed WPD actions as well as to identify any additional steps to take. Attendees then participated in electronic voting, to reveal the consensus views at each workshop.

As a result of the feedback received (available at: www.westernpower.co.uk/about-us/stakeholder-information.aspx), WPD have identified seven specific actions relating to affordability and fuel poverty. Examples include establishing a fuel poverty referral scheme in each of WPD’s four distribution licence areas to provide support to customers including debt management advice, help switching energy tariffs and energy efficiency measures. WPD have also committed to refresh our social indicator mapping (to identify fuel poverty hotspots) every two years. Moreover, in Autumn 2016, WPD will launch a competition for existing community-based fuel poverty schemes to bid for funding to work in partnership with WPD to address issues facing customers who are struggling to afford their energy.