Hy-Fair - Fairer Warmth Hub

The Hy-Fair project aims to address the challenges faced by Consumers in Vulnerable Situations (CIVS) and Small Businesses during the transition to hydrogen and other low carbon technologies.

Funded by Ofgem’s Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF) Alpha phase after progressing through the SIF Discovery phase, the Hy-Fair project will develop a central Fairer Warmth Hub (the Hub) environment, equipped with specialized tools and tailored guidance to empower community champions, individuals, and small businesses to foster place-based approaches that encourage collaboration and help communities deliver a fair energy transition.

The Hy-Fair project is being led by gas distribution network SGN, with support rom a range of organisations including: Centre for Energy Equality, Energy Systems Catapult, LCP Delta, Fife Council, British Gas Centrica, SP  Energy Networks, Cadent, Wales and West Utilities and National Gas Transmission.

Hy-Fair will be working with communities in Fife to co-create and trial solutions aligned with the H100 project and wider decarbonisation efforts in the region.

The Challenge

During the SIF Discovery Phase, understanding of the problem evolved significantly. Through extensive research and engagement with stakeholders, it was discovered that the identified challenges being faced by CIVS and Small Businesses during the transition to hydrogen gas, also extended to a wider range of low carbon technologies.

Affordability, safety, consumer preferences, and potential disruption emerged as common challenges across all stakeholders. Engaging the local supply chain, including tradespeople, was crucial to support the low carbon transition. Additionally, many specific challenges were place-based, necessitating localised solutions. The Discovery phase research demonstrated that CIVS and communities often prefer support from local organisations they are familiar with, rather than larger entities.

In response to the insights gained from consumers, businesses, and stakeholders, the project has evolved beyond hydrogen to address the broader challenges associated with the energy transition. Feedback and learnings have been integrated into a comprehensive approach that goes further than simply mitigating disruptions during the transition to hydrogen gas. Instead, the project will focus on a place-based strategy to address challenges throughout the entire energy transition process.

This evolution requires the development of a holistic solution that considers the specific needs and concerns of various stakeholders and places local communities and trusted organisations at the heart of delivering key messages and ongoing support.

The Innovation

The Hy-Fair Fairer Warmth Hub will address the problem by fostering community-led, place-based, fair energy transitions. This innovation will provide a central virtual environment that provides a set of tools to empower community champions, deliver tailored guidance, and facilitate community engagement for a just transition to clean energy.

The development of the Fairer Warmth Hub is a novel and replicable approach for identifying, supporting, and including vulnerable and disadvantaged consumers. This holistic solution will enable individuals, communities, and organisations to collaborate in decarbonising local energy systems.

By incorporating insights gained from consumer and small business engagement, the Hub solution will address the unique challenges faced by different consumer groups. We strive to ensure equal access to the benefits of transitioning to green alternatives. The proposed solution will support heat decarbonisation across all areas, including off-gas grid rural regions, fuel-poor households, and consumer groups with limited access to decarbonisation opportunities.

Energy Systems Catapult’s role is to engage with stakeholders and consumer groups to ensure the Fairer Warmth Hub provides solutions that meets their requirements, including Fife Council, tradespeople, and small businesses such as restaurateurs to understand their specific needs and challenges. The Catapult is also supporting the development of two specific tools for the Hub, with one tool aiming to help vulnerable consumers find financial support/funding to make their home more energy efficient, and the other supporting the upskilling of community advisors that will help the community with their various questions and concerns.

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