November 01, 2013

The Last Three Days (18th to 20th September)

Well, this is embarassing. I thought I'd written blog posts for the very end of my internship, but the sheer busyness of it must have knocked it off the priorities list.

Wednesday was interesting because we spent it collating the results of a previous initiative into energy use. The housing team had run a shop in Paulsgrove advising people on energy consumption and how to save it, in order to help those on low incomes survive better. As part of this, they got people visiting their shop (and some people they went out to visit) to complete questionnaires about how much of their income was spent on energy and how warm their houses were, among other things.

Paulsgrove has two major factors contributing to the fuel poverty of its residents:

- The housing was manufactured after the war very quickly, intended to be temporary. It was also largely sponsored by a tin manufacturer. The result is swathes of housing made of Tin, which as everybody knows is absolutely amazing for heat insulation. (I may have been slightly sarcastic there.) The housing, being temporary in design, is also falling apart, so most people have significant drafts and lose heat constantly.

- The residents are almost entirely on pre-pay tariffs, which are inherently more expensive, and use more energy than most people as they are often sedentary. The older residents on pensions suffer heavily when winter comes around.

Well, these were the suspected factors. By mid-afternoon we had put all of the questionnaires into an indexed spreadsheet, having quantified most of the results and left the rest as notes, and had a meeting to discuss Tuesday's sheltered housing audits.

Thursday morning was then spent analysing the data to find connections, which took some ingenuity. After inventing several metrics of my own, and doing some research into statistical analysis, we found some interesting and unpredicted results.

- Houses tended to have slightly higher bills than flats. This makes some sense, as flats tend to insulate each other by virtue of being in contact.

- Whether people were paying their bills had no real connection to the type of building they were living in, nor building construction style.

- The houses seemed more expensive than the traditionally built accommodation, but I realised that the traditional housing was mostly one-person flats, while the housing had multiple bedrooms. With this in mind, the houses were far more efficient per bedroom than the one-person flats.

In the afternoon, I performed more data analysis, like I had for the non-housing buildings in the carbon reduction department, but on a number of housing developments. These were interesting as they often used technology I hadn't come across before.

One of the most interesting patterns of energy use was in a pair of blocks of flats that used Night Storage Heating. Storage Heaters are powered during the night and store the resulting heat internally. They then release this heat again during the day as required. They're no more energy efficient than heating at the time, but where electricity suppliers offer cheaper power at night they can save large amounts of money for the end user.

On Friday I returned to the Carbon Management Department to finish the final stretch of the Stark Analysis. It went pretty much as it had done on previous days, but for a break in the middle I got to sit in on the Portsmouth Big Recycle briefing.

https://bigrecycle.portsmouth.gov.uk/is an awe-inspiring initiative to bolster Portsmouth's recycling rate. In September, Portsmouth had one of the highest recycling participation rates of any city in the UK, but was in the bottom three for actual proportion of waste recycled, at 23%. Increasing this rate to just 30% would earn the council another £150,000 per year for the sale of resources, which would be enough to continue funding weekly bin collections within the city, a feature they pride themselves on.

The Big Recycle is a plan that will run for 18 months, hopefully long enough for lasting behavioural change. Each month 83 people will be chosen from those who have signed up, and their recycling bins will be checked. Those who are recycling well enough (though the standards increase over time) will win a prize of between £25 and £250, while those who aren't receive guidance on how to do it better and the knowledge that they could win next time...

They've thrown a lot behind the scheme, even having a Big Recycle Van decorated, and they made an appearance at the Portsmouth Summer Fair, a huge environmentally themed event that ran on the 21st of September, to spread the word to students at the University of Portsmouth.

Now it's just a case of seeing how many people sign up, and whether people recycle well enough to win the money. I'm hoping to see results of the scheme appearing, and if not I know who to email!


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