Review of the Climate Challenge Fund - Appendix C: Case Studies Report

This report reviews the Climate Challenge Fund (CCF), a Scottish Government scheme that supports communities to take action to address climate change.

Caithness Carbon Challenge

Project value Medium (£65,689 - £130,295)
Duration 3.5 years
Refresh Elements Broaden: New to CCF
Topic(s) Energy

Project Details

Background to group

The steering group for the Caithness Carbon Challenge project was set up specifically for this CCF project and was made up of board members of a local housing association plus key members of the community, including representatives of other local community groups and a representative of a local business.

Reasons for project and inspiration

The project sought to encourage the community in the area to reduce their carbon footprint through more effective management of energy in their homes. The steering group established that there was a high level of fuel poverty being experienced in the area and identified a need for further support in relation to energy advice. This need was identified through previous local projects to tackle this problem and also via consultation with individuals, organisations and community groups throughout the county.

Pentland Energy Advice, an independent local energy advice group developed out of the Pentland Housing Association, supported the development of the proposal and were used to manage the delivery of the energy advice project. Pentland Housing Association were on the steering group of Caithness Carbon Challenge.

Aims and approach

The project delivered expert, in-home energy advice to people that could not afford warmth and electricity. The day-to-day delivery of the project was overseen by a manager at Pentland Energy Advice with significant experience of running this type of service. The advice was provided by two fully trained part-time members of staff that were recruited and trained specifically for this project.

The specific focus of the project was on encouraging behaviour change, initially for a period of two months with each client, to help support them to reduce their energy and specifically electricity costs. Each client received an in-home visit at the start and end of engagement, along with interim follow up emails or telephone calls to check progress and offer additional support.

The project also included some wider engagement with the community via the provision of energy-related advice and information sessions to school pupils (via school visits).

The project did not receive any co-funding, but partnerships were used or built with the local housing association, social work, Citizen's Advice Bureaux and Highland Council housing to generate referrals for advice.

Achieving Behaviour Change

This project focused on encouraging householders to change behaviour in the home through offering specific tailored advice for individuals and households. Although fuel poverty alleviation was a key driver for the project, it did not look at a particular group of people and sought to be all inclusive.

Householders were loaned digital energy monitors and a diary to record energy consumption. This was supported by general energy advice and education. Householders were also encouraged to read their electricity meter as part of the on-going support. The advisers also helped householders to access energy efficiency grants and initiatives that could help them to make energy saving measures in their home.

A summary of project activities based on the ISM contexts is as follows


  • Bespoke in-home tailored energy advice, demonstrating changes that could be made.
  • A focus on cost savings more than carbon, although climate change was always mentioned when home visits were made and advice and messages were tailored to each client.
  • Paperwork, brochures, leaflets, literature, left with the householder during the visit.
  • Additional direct contact (email, phone call) to 'check in' and offer advice.


  • Use of local agency with experience of offering advice and good reputation.
  • Enthusiasm and knowledge of advisors was identified as a key driver to change.
  • Recipients of advice asked to recommend friends.
  • Community group talks (e.g. to tenants, 'mums' groups, food banks).
  • Tailored presentations for school students.
  • Special 'power rangers' material developed for schools to encourage children to take part (17 visits undertaken with schools). Brochures and posters were left and passed on to pupils, potentially reaching 1,000 households.


  • Energy monitors issued to participants to demonstrate and record savings.
  • Powerdown switches issued (for schools only).
  • Incentives ('Kindle' tablet readers) offered to encourage people to engage and take part.
  • Use of local Facebook groups to promote and recruit visits, and to offer tips to their advice community.

Successes and Benefits

Project delivery

The biggest success for the project was perceived by project staff as seeing householders increase their knowledge about how much energy they were using, what appliances typically used and how best they could reduce their usage on a long term basis. In particular the use of energy monitors was perceived as hugely successful in engaging households, to the extent that the original approach of loaning them out was changed as recipients wanted to keep them.

In addition to this, the use of social media (in this case Facebook) to promote the service was seen as a hugely successful innovation in the way advice services were promoted. The use of Facebook led to a significant increase in clients and has also been used to disseminate information or 'top tips' on an on-going basis. The work with primary schools was also much more successful than originally anticipated.

Community and Wider benefits

As a result of feedback that the group have received both directly and informally, they believe that there is now a much greater knowledge in the community of climate change and of energy costs and savings. There were also employability benefits of the fund, as the project trained local staff who were able to gain employment as advisors after the project had finished.

Carbon Calculations

The aim of the project was to record the effect of advice via monitoring and recording the kWh usage both before and after receiving advice. The calculations of carbon savings arising from this was a relatively straightforward process due to the use of energy monitors and the protocols that they put in place to collect energy data (direct from suppliers via phone if possible). This was collected on the first visit to the recipient's home and when the advice 'journey' was concluded. This meant that before and after savings could be accurately calculated. The group did however find it difficult to attribute savings to wider activities such as the school based work and the community group visits (although some clients were recruited directly from the latter). In total CO2 reductions of 1462 tonnes were calculated.

Challenges and Lessons Learned

The project learnt a range of lessons throughout the three and a half years of its duration. In particular the group strongly felt the need to ensure that householders kept their energy monitors to ensure behaviours did not revert back to normal.

The group also identified that there are different motivations for change and that although some are worried about climate change, the majority of their audience were focused on the cost they were spending on fuel. As a result engaging or leading on climate change was less effective in many cases.

The group also identified that engaging with people on home energy during the warmer months is more difficult. As a result incentives were introduced to motivate people to request energy advice visits, in particular a raffle to win a free Kindle, which helped to some extent to recruit households to the project.

The group also reflected that there may have been scope to further analyse the information on who was being referred to them. This could have been used to gain more understanding of who was most interested in the offering and assisted with targeting.

Legacy / Looking Forward

The key legacy from the perspective of the project was in the savings and the long term behavioural changes made in the community. However the group acknowledged that 'bad behaviour' can return easily without on-going support. They would have liked to have carried on the project if they could have obtained further funding, both to reinforce current activity and to reach households that they felt they were yet to support.

The project has also left a legacy in terms of helping to set up a further CCF project (focusing on advice and draught insulation) which has been developed with financial support from the local housing association (although this project focuses on housing association tenants only).

In addition, a key legacy has been the energy consumption data collected (from project participants) that has been used to generate more realistic assessment of household energy use in this remote area (when compared to UK estimates). The revised data have been used in the subsequent successful application to the CCF.

The project also feels that the project has raised the profile of the local organisation running the project, both across the community and with schools and wider agencies.


Email: Debbie Sagar

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