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Energy Envoys: Tackling the energy literacy gap

Posted by Alex Steeland on 20 October 2015 at 9:50 am

The National Energy Foundation (NEF) recently launched its Energy Envoys volunteering scheme to help tackle the serious problem of the lack of understanding of energy issues and an inability to apply energy knowledge in practice.

This blog is the second in a three-part series through which we’re looking at what the energy literacy gap is, why it matters, how we can tackle it and how Energy Envoys can make a real difference.

Why does it matter?

Recent research has raised concerns that people think they know more about energy issues than they really do – why does this matter and what can we do about it?

For individuals, lacking the understanding to make informed and effective decisions about energy use can lead to higher living costs, lower living standards and impacts on health and well-being. With questions around our energy security threatening steep price rises in the future, this is only going to hit people’s pockets harder.

But the energy literacy gap has wider implications. Meeting our carbon reduction targets and tackling climate change will require us to fully understand the energy, carbon and financial implications of our choices and behaviours. We make decisions about our energy future all the time, through choosing how much energy to use, where we buy our energy from and the energy sources we support, and it is essential that these decisions are made with the maximum understanding of energy issues. An informed public will help create the political will and consumer demand needed to ensure government and industry act responsibly and develop significant policies and energy solutions to secure a sustainable energy future.

At the heart of solving this problem is our young people. Young people are crucial to our energy future – not only in the buildings around them today, but as the energy buyers, users and decision-makers of tomorrow. We are now in a position where we have a generation of householders who don’t understand their bills and have little idea where energy comes from, and that’s pretty scary.

How can we tackle it?

To help tackle this problem, NEF developed its Energy Envoys volunteering scheme, which is now offered to 300,000 young people to complete the Volunteering section of their Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. The aim of the scheme – which is supported and endorsed by the UK’s leading professional engineering institutions – is to harness the energy and enthusiasm of young people to help schools and communities use energy more wisely, save money and reduce carbon emissions by setting up their own energy projects.

As Energy Envoys, thousands of young people will be educated about energy use and generation, as well as different energy and building technologies which can improve energy use. They will gain a better understanding of and ability to resolve issues associated with poor energy use, making more sustainable decisions and having the capacity to champion energy as an environmental and social cause. Wider and longer term benefits will come from participants sharing knowledge with parents, teachers and peers, helping to address knowledge gaps and creating a more energy literate society.

In its first year, NEF expects to support up to 1,000 Energy Envoys delivering between 13,000 and 78,000 hours of volunteering. Eventually, with a rolling registration of more than 300,000 participants and operating through more than 12,700 centres across the UK, The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award provides huge potential for developing a nationwide network of Energy Envoys.

Energy Envoys offers a unique channel for inspiring and engaging young people to develop their understanding of energy issues and to tackle the energy literacy gap.

To find out more about the Energy Envoys scheme, visit the Energy Envoys website. Help to spread the word by retweeting (@EnergyEnvoys), by liking Energy Envoys on Facebook or by sending the website url to anyone who might be interested in getting involved: www.energyenvoys.org.uk. Participants can sign up here.

The third blog in this series will look at what the scheme actually involves and what’s in it for young people who volunteer as Energy Envoys.

Photo: Energy Envoys launch, used with the permission of Denbigh School

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Related blogs

Energy Envoys: What is the energy literacy gap?

Energy Envoys: what is in it for the young volunteer?

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