"Towards a Zero Carbon Community"
Posted Thursday, September 25, 2008
Last year, Sustainable Youlgrave launched a Household Survey of every residential property in the Youlgrave area in an attempt to gauge current energy use and existing energy conservation measures. This will hopefully provide us with the evidence base from which we can consider targeted energy saving initiatives, such as improving household insulation, re-using grey water, distributing cost price energy-saving light bulbs and so on.
The survey has been completed, here is the analysis:
SUSTAINABLE YOULGRAVE’S HOUSEHOLD ENERGY SURVEY
An Initial report
Aims of the Survey
One of Sustainable Youlgrave’s first priorities when it was established was to carry out a door-to-door household energy survey looking at how Youlgrave householders and landlords were responding to the need to improve the energy efficiency of their houses. It was also seen as a way of raising (a) the profile of the newly-established community organisation and (b) local awareness of energy efficiency and the possibilities for local renewable energy projects.
Social surveying is a hard job. Questionnaire design needs technical experience and knocking on doors takes a lot of bottle – even when the respondents are your neighbours – or especially when the respondents are your neighbours. It is not surprising therefore that the survey ground to a halt. This seems to have led to quite a bit of organisational guilt within Sustainable Youlgrave about this apparent failure.
However, the results have been better than had been feared. Over the last few weeks I have collected in all the responses to the questionnaire. Those who responded did so mainly in September and October 2007. I have compiled a database of respondents’ names, addresses and telephone numbers. Initial analysis is as follows:
Responses to the questionnaire:
With name and address - 110
Without name and address - 5
With name but no address - 1
Responses by village location
Alport - 11
Bankside - 17
Bradford - 27
Coldwell End - 25
Mawstone Lane - 11
Middleton - 8
Stoneyside - 7
Brookleton - 2
Main Street - 2
Analysis of the Data
This isn’t random of course, but as a sample of the village it is not bad at all. There are clearly some yawning gaps. There are very few responses along the main spine of the village (Alport Lane/Church Street/Main Street) until you get to Bankside and Coldwell End. There is also nothing from New Road, Conksbury or Grove Place.
So far I have sifted the responses in broad-brush terms only. I’m not sure of the value of further analysis as the results at the impressionistic level seem to me to be rather predictable.
Almost everybody has tried to implement some energy-saving measures, such as light bulbs, draught excluder, turning off lights, reduced heating.
Far fewer have invested in energy-saving appliances like double-glazing, solar heating, cavity wall insulation, efficient boiler, etc.
Most, if not all respondents recycle their rubbish as much as possible and many compost green waste.
Most have tried to save water by turning off taps, installing a water butt, using a washing up bowl and a shower rather than a bath.
But far fewer re-use ‘grey’ water or have installed more efficient taps and toilet flushes.
Only 38 respondents were interested in a energy efficiency survey of their home,
But 61 expressed an interest in local renewable energy projects.
The level of interest in bulk-buying schemes is low. Where there is interest it tends to be in light bulbs, loft insulation and draught-excluder. There is only occasional interest in solar panels and other renewable energy appliances.
20 people expressed interest in a car pool scheme.
A high proportion liked the idea of a community orchard.
69 expressed interest in an energy information and advice point.
Almost everybody would like to hear about SY ideas for use of local natural resources.
The value of the ‘yes/some’ answers seems to me to be limited because certain respondents have answered ‘some’ even where the answer can only be ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Therefore, I have not distinguished between the two in the above analysis.
Furthermore, responses to the last three questions have limited use because it is too easy to answer ‘yes’.
Options for Future Work
1. If the aim is for SY to make contact with each household and raise the profile of SY and the issues it exists to tackle then it may be worth continuing with the questionnaire using voluntary interviewers from SY.
2. If the point is to gather hard information on the energy efficiency of Youlgrave’s housing stock then the current questionnaire is not nearly detailed enough and a more focussed approach is necessary.
In my view Option One would be better achieved through the newsletter and other means of communication and information-giving.
Option Two would be hard for a voluntary group to carry out and would require a professional survey organisation, a company or academic institution, to gather hard data on the measures that need to be taken in each house and the ability of the household to carry them out. Indeed, if it is to be related to improvements in energy efficiency (ie. the installation of materials and appliances) it might be better if this were carried out by a company with experience of this work. The drawback here is that Sustainable Youlgrave may be reticent about effectively going into partnership with a commercial company which sells the products.
This was the reason for our initial interest in ‘Heat Streets’ – the Powergen (Eon) vehicle for implementing the Government requirement on the energy companies to spend money on improving energy efficiency nationwide. The scheme, however, required the company to go into partnership with a local authority and Derbyshire Dales did not take it up. This programme lapsed last year – although the Government requirement did not and at the present time we await news of Powergen’s replacement scheme.
I have deliberately gone no further at the moment because I think there is a need for a strategic debate within Sustainable Youlgrave about the way forward.
The household survey set out with laudable objectives in the organisation’s first year. If it is to be pursued to a conclusion in its present form there is a need for clarity about the amount of work and effort this will require from members and volunteers. On the other hand it can be argued that the survey is not the tool needed to do the job and that Sustainable Youlgrave should look for another way forward.