Fair Energy Campaign Pilot awarded LLDC funding

The Fair Energy Campaign champions best practices and principles in the energy supply sector, and aims to alleviate fuel poverty and reduce carbon emissions by supporting customers to make informed decisions about energy suppliers.

Dr Laura Santamaria, Lecturer within the Institute for Design Innovation, has been awarded £139,000 in funding by the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) to support her Fair Energy Campaign Pilot project at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

In times of ecological extinction and resource scarcity, access to affordable energy has become an increased concern for citizens globally. There are over 14 million people living in poverty in the UK, 8.5 million are food insecure and 2.5 million live in fuel poverty[1] and more than 25% of UK households don’t know what energy tariff they are on. This situation is now heavily aggravated by the current COVID-19 crisis. This reveals the need for sector reform and innovation that enables green energy access at all customer levels.

The pilot on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park will produce tangible and considerable local impact, and at the same time serve to develop, test and formalise resources and methodologies to be transferable to other contexts. This action research project phase will deploy a series of 'proof of concept' interventions to trial a 'Hub and Switch' model activated through communities of trust, which supports residents in buying their energy from 100% renewable sources. In partnership with Citizens UK Hackney, the pilot will focus on reaching 16,000 vulnerable households within Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and legacy boroughs over a period of 15 months, leading to significant reductions in energy bill costs and carbon emissions per household. The approach is based on applying design innovation principles and practices that lead to benefits for all stakeholders: people and organisations alike.

Dr Laura Santamaria, Project Lead for the campaign comments:

"With our 'hub and switch' model, we have identified a simple way to cut down a household's carbon footprint and lower the energy bills considerably. By 2021, we hope to save 400 tonnes of CO2 and save families and communities £80,000 a year, creating benefits for people, energy companies and the environment."

Research background

In 2017, Citizens UK set a challenge for postgraduate students at Loughborough University London to develop innovations to address fuel poverty, environmental and economic injustices in the energy market. Working within a Design Thinking process, students generated a good practice charter which served as the basis for the Fair Energy campaign principles. In 2019, researchers at Loughborough University London's Institute of Design Innovation took the lead in the development of the campaign communication and implementation strategy.

Campaigns are an undeniably effective vehicle for paradigm change. Conceptualised as a form of activism grounded in communicative action theory, they aim to disseminate knowledge and ways of understanding that empowers people to take individual actions that, collectively, generate benefit for society as a whole. In order to obtain the change they seek, citizen movements and organisations can often be driven by strategic action agendas – i.e. action-oriented toward success, pursued regardless of the interests of others. In contrast, our approach is based on applying design innovation principles and practices that lead to benefits for all stakeholders: people and organisations alike.

Historically, Citizens UK has initiated very successful nationwide campaigns such as the Living Wage which resulted in pay rises for over 150,000 workers and their families. Equally, the Fair Energy campaign represents an opportunity for impactful research to influence energy consumption and drive new practices in the energy market at individual, local and national level.

Project Lead – Dr Laura Santamaria

Dr Laura Santamaria is Lecturer at the Institute for Design Innovation. She champions knowledge transfer with a focus on place-based impact, developing projects with local stakeholders in our community. Laura has over 20 years' experience as a practitioner and entrepreneur having set up two businesses in the UK in specialised in sustainability media and communications. Her research focuses on Design for Social Change, a design activism approach to empower communities for paradigm change through grassroots innovation and entrepreneurship.

[1] Fuel poor, defined by a government policy "low income, high costs" (LIHC) indicator, refers to people living with lower than average income levels (Middlemiss, 2017; Koh et al., 2012).