Following a visit to a homeowner using renewable energy, Greg Barker – Energy Minister was in the headlines again this week as he expressed his view that anyone heading towards their pension years should consider solar electricity for its greater returns than their pension pot.

The charity Turn2Us conducted a survey across the South West and found that a staggering 76% of people are worried about paying their energy bills this winter. They found that the impact this is having on people’s lives is severe, with people experiencing stress and ill health as they struggle with the growing gap between the costs of their bills and what they can afford to pay.

The survey, released to coincide with Turn2us’ fuel poverty campaign, found that over three quarters (76%) of households across the South West that struggled with their energy bills last winter experienced stress as a result.

With the average annual shortfall between energy bills and what people can afford to pay increasing by almost £200 to £438 over the last ten years, people are resorting to extreme measures to pay their bills. Almost a half (45%) would risk endangering their health and wellbeing by not using heating in their homes, while 43% of people had to rely on the financial support of family and friends to cover their energy bills and others cutting back on food during this period.

To date in the UK 500,000 British homes are now running on solar electricity, allowing users to generate their own electricity and sell any excess power to their energy provider. There is the upfront cost for the system, though these homeowners have taken a medium to long term view for the future of their energy with immediate savings and the Feed in Tariff payments made quarterly from their energy provider over a 20 years period.

In a bid to fight fuel poverty in the South West there is a local organisationwho has risen to the challenge of helping homeowners afford renewable electricity and heating with a low interest community loan. Your Greener Loan, available through Save Energy Group in Poole – Dorset, is available up to £7,000 and payable over a five year period or earlier. With no banks involved, the money is from the community going back to the community and provides the opportunity for more homeowners to take back control of rising costs.