Collective energy buying scheme
Concieved by the Eden Project, Cornwall Together, was the first regional collective switching scheme to launch in the UK. During two periods in 2012 and 2013 it collectively purchased electricity, gas and heating oil, working with cross-sector partners to alleviate fuel poverty and improve public health.
How we did it
As part of the wider UK Together campaign, Cornwall Together ran an up-front auction to negotiate group prices for a variety of different energy tariffs and payment methods. The auction was done at the start of the process, so members knew the group price from the start. Whole of market comparisons were provided for both fixed and variable rates to ensure members of the schemes received the best value. A green tariff was also included.
The DECC-funded project delivered a comprehensive awareness-raising campaign that targeted the most hard to reach, fuel poor and vulnerable households in Cornwall working in partnership with a wide range of cross sector organisations including Cornwall Council, NHS Cornwall and Isles of Scilly, Community Energy Plus, St Austell Brewery and many others.
The marketing campaign was backed up by an engagement programme that used techniques based on Eden’s unique style of communication, targeting hard-to-reach communities in both housing estates and village halls. There was also a county-wide tour with a ‘shed on wheels’, a Cornwall Together campervan and a series of events in local pubs.
Thermal imaging project
Together with the University of Plymouth, we arranged one of the largest thermal image surveys in the UK, giving 620 households a visual snapshot of exactly where heat was escaping. This gave them a visible and salient piece of information much more likely than a written survey to spur behaviour change.
What we achieved and what we learnt
Average savings of £112 per household were achieved and more than £130,000 went back into the pockets of Cornish householders.
But it was also about what we learnt. In the course of the pathfinder project we identified an approach that could:
- engage the disengaged (17% of members had never switched before, 15% of switches were made offline)
- reach the hard to reach (28% of switchers were in fuel poverty, 50% more than were present in the general population)
- use the concept of ‘togetherness’ to drive change (75% of members wanted to be part of something bigger, 65% of non-switchers would recommend to friends and family)
The findings from Cornwall Together have been invaluable for the organisations behind it – and have contributed in pushing forwards the concept of collective switching across the UK.
Community Energy Plus, a Cornwall Together partner, continues to run collective switching service in Cornwall.
This scheme really is the first of its kind. And I sincerely hope it’s the first of many.
Ed Davey, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (July 2012)