04:06pm Thursday 16 July 2020

Helping the elderly stay warm and comfortable through energy solutions

The Energy Efficiency in the 3rd Age project (EE3A) has recruited 800 people from Wollongong, Shellharbour, Kiama, Shoalhaven and the Wingecarribee local government areas to participate in various trials over two years.

The EE3A initiative is being driven by a consortium of high-profile local organisations charged with delivering education and solutions for elderly Australians that will reduce their energy consumption while ensuring quality of life – particularly their ability to use and pay for energy – is maintained.

The research trials will be run by the UOW’s Sustainable Buildings Research Centre (SBRC), Centre for Health Initiatives (CHI) and Australian Centre for Cultural and Environmental Research (AusCCER).

This project aims to design, implement and evaluate approaches to encouraging older people to manage their energy usage without reducing their quality of life.

EE3A will involve a number of initiatives including research, the delivery of a social marketing program, building audits, as well as educational workshops and materials.

The rising cost of electricity has also posed a challenge for people on fixed incomes to meet their energy costs.

Yet elderly residents often have difficulty accessing energy saving schemes for a number of reasons that include old and inefficient appliances; poor home insulation; medical conditions such as MS, Arthritis or Parkinson’s Disease that require increased heating or cooling as well as the use of mobility aids such as electric wheelchairs and scooters that require recharging.

Further research will examine the cultures of energy consumption amongst low-income older people living in the Illawarra in range of housing types.

“Questions such as ‘how do low income older people keep warm at home in winter?’ or ‘How do they keep cool at home in summer?’ may seem mundane, yet insights from these day-to-day homemaking practices will help shed light on practices and regulations that both work against, and towards, lower energy consumption,” AUSCCER’s Professor Gordon Waitt said.

Energy usage monitoring and new, energy-efficient technology will be addressed at later stage of the trials.

SBRC Director Professor Paul Cooper said: “We are delighted to be a key part of this project that will lead the way in helping older Australians reduce their energy bills and establish the best technical options for retrofitting homes for energy efficiency and thermal comfort.”

The $3.5 million project – which includes $2.3 million from the Commonwealth Government and a further $1.2 million from the consortium organisations – was officially launched in the Illawarra today by Bob Baldwin MP, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry.

The EE3A consortium of Regional Development Australia Illawarra (RDAI), the University of Wollongong, Illawarra retirement Trust (IRT), Warrigal, Illawarra Forum, WEA Illawarra, Southern Councils Group and the Royal Freemason’s Benevolent Institution (RBFI) brings together some of the region’s most experienced organisations in the areas of data collection, research, aged care and education.

“This is one of the largest research and education undertakings of its kind and it is testament to the skills and expertise we have here in the Region,” RDAI Chair Eddy de Gabrielle said. “The solutions delivered through the EE3A initiative, while developed by a local collaboration, will have national applications.”

“The EE3A brings together our internationally renowned university, our most experienced and long time operators in the aged sector, suppliers and those at the coal face who understand first hand the issues and challenges facing low income older Australians when it comes improving energy efficiency.”

Media contact: Grant Reynolds, UOW Media & PR Officer, +61 417 010 350 or [email protected].

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