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Together with community groups in Easton, Ashley and Lawrence Hill, we worked to support the community engagement element of the REPLICATE Smart Homes project, helping Bristol City Council to fit smart appliances such as washing machines and retrofit homes with efficient boilers and better insulation. This is a research project working with Bristol’s universities to understand what differences such interventions make, particularly to harder-pressed households.

The REPLICATE Smart Homes initiative is one strand of a European-funded research project looking at how technology can help the citizens of Bristol (and our project partners in Florence and San Sebastian) live more energy-efficient lives. The project is trialing smart appliances and home retrofit measures, offering these for free or at reduced cost to a limited number of households in the Easton, Ashley and Lawrence Hill areas of the city.

BEN’s role in the project is to engage new audiences in energy and support suitable households to get involved in the project. We are working with Knowle West Media Centre to build on our extensive local connections and develop new engagement mechanisms which will appeal to a wide audience, reflecting the broad demographic of these areas. We hope not just to engage people in the project but also to raise awareness and understanding of energy use in the project areas and more widely in the city.

This project has now been successfully completed. The first phase easily reached our target of 150 Smart  Appliances* installed (*washing machines, dishwasher or tumble dryers). More information can be found in this Replicate Stage1 Progress Report. The second phase reached out and engaged over 570 residents in Ashley, Easton and Lawrence Hill, through 35 different events and activities and supported by a new team of Energy Champions.

Highlights of the project include:

  • REPLICATE won an award for Citizen Engagement at the Smart Cities UK conference in 2019
  • Ten people switched energy suppliers saving a total of £2675 (an average of £270 each) a year, with many changing to a green energy tariff
  • Recruiting 10 Energy Champions who helped to organise and support BEN at over 66 events and activities, giving out 700 flyers and referring 69 people for smart appliances and 59 for retrofit measures.
  • Offering Energy Champions the living wage (£9/hour) for attending certain events and a £15 “Thank You” for every referral they signed up who received a Smart appliance or retrofit measure. Some Energy Champions would not have been able to take part without the financial incentive.

Our Energy Champions proved so successful that we are developing a 12 month training programme for new Energy Champions through the WHAM project starting from March 2020.

A special thanks to Bristol Black Carers Somali Youth Voice and Dhek Bhal in their support in helping people take part who might not otherwise be able to. See, this inspiring video here staring Anndeloris Chacon our Energy Champion from Bristol Black Carers. Also, special thanks to Vocalise Magazine & Up Our Street for promoting the project.

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