How we helped 5,404 residents with their energy expenses

Switched on Portsmouth has won national recognition for its work to increase energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions, writes Meredydd Hughes, deputy director of building services at Portsmouth City Council.

Lit in Portsmouth


Provide a full service to provide residents with ways to save energy and money in their homes

Time scale

From 2019

Cost for the authority

Employment costs of £160,000 – not funded by general taxation but through service earned funding

Staff working on the project



Helped 5,404 customers in 2021, saving approximately 789 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent


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Fuel poverty is a real problem for many Portsmouth residents. According to data from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, 10.7% of households in Portsmouth were in energy poverty in 2019. It is likely that this figure will now have increased due to the rising cost of living observed since the pandemic, and that it will continue to increase over the coming year.

Meredydd Hughes, Deputy Director of Building Services at Portsmouth City Council

The Portsmouth City Council Energy Services team was established in 2016, starting with a simple mandate to provide technical expertise to meet the energy needs of residents of the City Council and the buildings social housing stock.

Since then, the team’s remit has expanded to apply energy efficiency measures across the council’s portfolio of properties and channel grants to address energy poverty in private housing across the city.

It also provides consultancy services to a number of other local authorities and the private sector, enabling the team to generate revenue which in turn lowers the cost of the service for Portsmouth residents.

Encompassing all available support

Switched on Portsmouth was launched in November 2019 by Portsmouth City Council and was set up to provide a full service to provide residents of Portsmouth, Gosport and Havant with ways to save energy and electricity. money with them.

We realized there was a need to consolidate all available aids, programs and advice in one place, making it easier for residents to access. The Switched On Portsmouth brand has been created with an associated website, social media channels and contact facilities to house and promote the programs and initiatives available in one place.

It was originally introduced to promote all funded energy efficiency and energy poverty alleviation schemes available through Portsmouth City Council.

However, in recent years the offer has expanded to provide comprehensive learning materials to promote energy literacy, provide apps and tools that make energy efficiency advice more accessible and more specific to our residents, and to help achieve the goals and objectives of the Home Energy and Water Strategy.

The service offers:

  • A dedicated free telephone hotline, accessible to all residents who need support and advice on their energy bills and financial concerns
  • Access to capital-funded energy efficiency upgrades including solar PV, wall insulation, air-source heat pumps and more
  • Direct links to low-cost ethical loans for energy efficiency measures, provided by Wessex Community Bank, making more expensive measures more accessible
  • Lists of approved solar PV installers, with low-carbon heating and insulation to follow this year, giving residents peace of mind access to fully accredited and insured installers
  • Access to Switched on Solar – a free app that accurately shows residents their home’s solar potential, including personalized ROI, energy and carbon savings
  • Access to the new Switched on Portsmouth app – an intuitive tool that uses multiple datasets to show a resident all the energy efficiency upgrades suitable for their home
  • An online revenue center with information on energy and water efficiency technologies, building structure upgrades, utility meters and more.

Switched on Solar, which launched in February 2021, allows residents to see how suitable their home is for solar panels using just their zip code. They can request a free inventory or be called back by our solar advisers and be referred to an approved installer.

The report gives residents information on the recommended size and placement of photovoltaic arrays, estimated electricity production, carbon savings, installation cost and return on investment.

External grant

Switched on Portsmouth secured over £9m in capital funding in the 2020-21 financial year and over the past year secured an additional £40m in funding to ensure the measures Capital-funded energy efficiency projects continue to be provided to Portsmouth residents and other members of the Portsmouth-led Warmer Homes Consortium.

Most of our services are funded by external grants, the sources of which include utility company bond, warm homes fund, local authority green homes grant distribution scheme, poverty grid extension, the warm house rebate industry initiative and energy repair funding.

In total, the Switched on Portsmouth service helped 5,404 customers in 2021, 80% of which involved supporting vulnerable residents, saving around 789 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, and in February this year we celebrated the 1 000th fully funded solar power installation. panel systems, solid wall insulation and parkhouse insulation in resident homes. Local contractors were used in Portsmouth to complete the installations.

And it’s clear that the need for Switch on Portsmouth is greater than ever. Since the price cap was increased in October 2021, we have seen a 50% increase in calls to its free telephone advice line compared to previous years.

“A lifeline for many”

Switched on Portsmouth has received wide recognition, including winning a green utility award category and being named energy efficiency project of the year in national competitions last year.

Locally, Samantha Massey, Head of Services at Age UK Portsmouth, said ‘the programs available through Switched on Portsmouth have been a lifesaver for many’.

The Switched on Portsmouth service will continue to target funding that can directly deliver energy and money saving measures for domestic properties across the city.

There was no grand vision or plan. We focused first on what was needed and the growth of the team and their functions was organic.

As the focus on net zero carbon has emerged, we are in a good position and have a head start to meet our aspirations. I am however unhappy with the challenges ahead and like many colleagues managing properties and buildings there will be sleepless nights ahead given how extensively we are renovating large portfolios of houses and apartments .

Over the next 12 months, we aim to release a completely revised Asset Management Strategy for the Housing Income Account, which will set out our vision for delivering future-ready homes.

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