ENERGY bills can be both confusing and costly - but thanks to a newly-opened community shop, help is on hand.
Worthing’s first community energy shop was launched in Warwick Street, Worthing, on Saturday, open for residents to gain advice from everything to saving money, to installing solar panels.
Pioneered by Transition Town, the ribbon was cut at the Colonnade House facility by Green MEP Keith Taylor in front of a small crowd on an icy-cold morning.
Jason Hannah, one of the project leaders, said: “We want to help anyone from the person who has a horrendous energy bill and doesn’t know why to someone interested in having solar panels on their roof.
“It’s a relaxed environment to get impartial advice to move towards the trajectory we all want, rather than looking to Government.”
The Worthing Borough Council-initiated energy switching scheme, launched last year, will be promoted in the shop, alongside various Government grants, of which many residents may be unaware of.
Open until March, when the temporary lease expires, advice will also be available about lower-cost home improvements, in order to reduce energy consumption in the fight against climate change.
Mr Hannah added: “We plan to use this opportunity to assist local citizens, by delivering against our main aims in a relaxed environment.
“We want to reduce energy consumption and the cost of energy by assisting citizens with bill switching and recommending behavioural changes . We will also provide way finding to services for those most in need.
“We want to conserve the energy we do have to use by offering hands on and low-cost snug draught-proofing workshops.”
But aside from advice, the group has more lofty ambitions, aiming to spearhead a project to generate its own sustainable energy source for the local community.
Although in its early stages, the aim is to generate energy for local people at a low cost, moving slowly away from reliance on the ‘Big Six’.
In essence, they want to ‘make energy a right’, not a commercial opportunity.
The town’s first energy co-operative, RENEWco, has already been set up to get the wheels in motion.
The organisation is looking for sites to operate community-owned solar panels, raising money through a community share issue.
Mr Hannah said people were often being charged more than they should be for their energy.
“If you haven’t switched within one year or 15 months, the chances are you are being overcharged,” he said.
“People are overwhelmed with all the information. Some people need help and assistance. It’s assumed you know what you need to do.”
The shop’s opening was marked by Worthing town crier, Bob Smytherman, who praised it as a ‘brilliant’ initiative.
He said: “It’s really exciting. Although it is only a short-term facility, I hope it becomes permanent, to enable people in the town to actually get advice about reducing their energy needs, as well as getting a better deal.
“Many thanks to Transition Town for working with the council to make it happen.”
Lib-Dem Tarring councillor and Worthing West parliamentary prospective candidate Hazel Thorpe was also in attendance.
Mrs Thorpe, who was a driving force behind the council’s energy switching scheme, said discussions with the council had been ongoing for several years about the need for a ‘one stop shop’ for advice.
While the shop’s long-term future is an unknown, due to Colonnade House being converted into a cultural help, following Government funding, it is hoped it will become a permanent feature in the town.
Mr Hannah said: “We have had a very good relationship with the council and we are waiting to see who is leading the cultural hub and if there is any way we can form something with them.
“Everyone here has a lot to offer and much to learn. We hope you’ll join us for the adventure.”
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