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.

WSHA Energy Advice Project

Project value Low (£0 - £65,689)
Duration 18 months (truncated to 15 months)
Refresh Elements Broaden: Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation bottom 30%
Topic(s) Energy Efficiency

Project Details

Background to group

Whiteinch and Scotstoun Housing Association (WSHA), a Glasgow-based social housing provider, was formally constituted in 1977. It declared its first Housing Action Areas in 1978. WSHA now offers just over 1300 properties for rent and, through a subsidiary company, delivers factoring services to approximately 600 domestic and commercial properties. The central mission of WSHA is to provide and maintain the highest quality rented housing and environment, with specific aims to:

  • provide responsive, quality services which reflect the identified needs and demand of the Whiteinch and Scotstoun communities.
  • contribute to and participate in the social, economic, cultural and environmental regeneration of the area.

Reasons for project and inspiration

The WSHA Energy Advice Project grew out of a rising demand for advice on fuel poverty and energy efficiency from WSHA tenants. WSHA had been making referrals to G-Heat (Glasgow Home Energy Advice Team) through WSHA's Tenancy Sustainment Officer. However, a year-on-year increase in the number of these referrals highlighted that WSHA would have to tackle the issues that were being raised by its tenants directly. Identifying this gap in WSHA services led it to create the Energy Advice Project.

Aims and approach

The primary aim of the project was to provide an energy advice service on a one-to-one basis through home and drop-in/office visits with WSHA tenants so that they could obtain knowledge to lower their energy use (by a target of 10%) and avoid fuel poverty through behaviour change. The service was delivered by both volunteers and housing association staff. Initially the project involved eight volunteers, but only four remained at project end. In part this was to be achieved through loaning electricity monitors to tenants. A particular focus was given to those tenants who lived in properties with electrical storage heating (generally acknowledged as being expensive to operate), as well as tenants considered by WSHA to be especially vulnerable (e.g. the elderly, young families, those with health and addiction issues). Also, events were to be held to raise the profile of the project beyond the WSHA tenant community.

Achieving Behaviour Change

A summary of the project activities, measures and behaviour change findings arranged in terms of ISM contexts is as follows.


  • Knowledge was provided to tenants to reduce energy consumption and associated costs and combat fuel poverty; tenants were primarily motivated by reducing expenditure on energy rather than addressing climate change.
  • Tenants were encouraged to take control of their energy provision arrangement but lacked agency; often Energy Advisors were required to act on their behalf with energy companies.
  • Although tenants may make changes to their energy consumption behaviour in the short-term, ongoing engagement was required in order for these changes to persist.
  • Tenants often did not know how to efficiently operate their heating systems.
  • Volunteers were empowered; some went on to engage in other activities with WSHA beyond the scope of the project.


  • Tenants were influenced by volunteers drawn from the local community; raising awareness of the project within and beyond this community was achieved through events, articles in newsletters, etc. (which lead to referrals).
  • Climate change remained an abstract concept to many tenants.
  • A perception arose amongst the project team that energy providers were not effectively dealing with queries from community members, indeed that the companies stood to gain from keeping customers on high tariffs.


  • Heating system controls were difficult to use for some tenants, with storage heaters proving particularly challenging.
  • Energy monitors were used to collect domestic energy consumption data and helped to inform the tenants about how their energy consumption behaviours influenced fuel bill costs.

Successes and Benefits

Project delivery

Based on 'soft' information (i.e. not energy or income information) provided by clients or determined by project Energy Advisers, 30 tenant households were deemed to be in fuel poverty. Addressing fuel poverty required sensitivity to the circumstances of each household. However reduced expenditure on energy was achieved through a range of actions including:

  • Providing energy reduction tips, heating system advice and energy monitors.
  • Changing payment methods to direct debit (where appropriate).
  • Changing tariff with existing energy supplier or switching energy supplier.
  • Applying for financial support (e.g. British Gas grants, Warm Homes Discount).

The average saving on energy costs for households in fuel poverty who received support and made appropriate changes was £150 per annum. Tenants were also provided with practical help and support to manage existing fuel debts. Overall, this help was deemed to be delivered more effectively than referring tenants to an outside agency because of WSHA's ability to provide additional welfare support.


Through one-to-one advice, outreach activities providing information, training workshops and hands-on volunteering, skills and services were delivered to WSHA tenants to allow them to make positive choices concerning their energy needs. Advice, which was tailored to each tenant, covered topics including:

  • Heating system operation and control setting.
  • Meter reading and changes associated with prepayment meters.
  • Understanding energy bills and statements.
  • Electrical appliance energy consumption and associated costs.
  • Contacting utilities companies with confidence.

These measures contributed to reduced energy costs and CO2 emissions among WSHA tenants. Feedback from tenants on the advice given was positive. One tenant reported, "I did not have a clue how to use these storage heaters before but it's much clearer now".

Wider benefits

It was found that specific home visits would lead to further home visits to family members and/or neighbours keen to take advantage of the same advice and services being offered by the project. These additional home visits also served to create a greater sense of cohesion within the community. Moreover, some volunteers on the project sought to become involved in other WSHA activities/initiatives. For example, one volunteer became involved in a community upcycling group.

Carbon Calculations

Carbon calculations were found to be relatively straightforward - "just pop the data into the spreadsheet". However, collecting energy consumption data from tenants on a short-term project was extremely challenging. Determining the impact of engagements required availability of the previous year's billing information and access to a bill/meter at the end of the next year. Also, as energy use is seasonal, analysing partial data could lead to a false impression of actual tenant household energy use, while tenants on prepaid meters are unlikely to have any of the requisite data. It was estimated that the lifetime (over 5 years) CO2 emission savings resulting from the project were approximately 350 tonnes.

Challenges and Lessons Learned

Project development

Some WSHA tenants had difficult or challenging personal circumstances; only 7% of tenants engaged with were considered not to be vulnerable. Typically they were in dispute with energy suppliers or in fuel debt and required many engagements, including multiple visits and verbal and written advocacy, which could not be accurately predicted in advance. This was a key resource consideration and influenced the planning of a future CCF-funded energy advice project.


Contacting energy suppliers on behalf of tenants (who frequently lacked the knowledge, confidence or ability to deal with these companies) was also resource intensive. Data protection law required that tenants give permission for their account details to be discussed, which caused delays and confusion. Excessive waiting time to be put through to call centres resulted in multiple contact attempts and a lack of continuity when dealing with energy company representatives. Call centre staff quality was also variable. This raised the need for energy suppliers to provide dedicated teams to deal with third party enquiries.

It was found to be more effective to recruit and train volunteers from within the community than from other areas. Those volunteers that remained at the end of the project came from the Whiteinch or Scotstoun areas and had a vested interest in the project being a success.

Legacy / Looking Forward

WSHA received additional funding from CCF for a new energy advice project that commenced in April 2015, allowing it to continue to provide energy advice services to the local community for a further year. Volunteers showed a great deal of enthusiasm for the project and were keen to learn and assist where possible. They continue to engage with issues relating to energy efficiency in the local community.



Email: Debbie Sagar

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