Laying the foundations in energy efficiency

By: Liz Male

As I step down as chair of NEF this summer, I share my reflections on the continued influence and importance of the charity.

Liz with Dave Evans

Born from the vision and commitment of energy efficiency pioneers in Milton Keynes in the 1980s, the National Energy Foundation (NEF) has been at the forefront of improving the use of energy in buildings for many decades.

I was a junior PR consultant working in London when I first met the National Energy Foundation.

My boss at the time had connections to Milton Keynes – the birthplace of the Milton Keynes Energy Cost Index and the country’s first attempts to measure and set performance targets for the energy efficiency of homes. NEF had developed an updated version of this, the National Home Energy Rating Scheme (NHER). And so NEF and the NHER became my client for several years.

Launching the NHER scheme was an exciting time in 1991. It was the first national energy assessment and labelling scheme in the UK, an innovation that gave us a whole new language to describe the energy performance of buildings and a consistent way to measure and manage energy consumption, cost, and carbon. I was so taken with the importance of this, even then, and found myself drawn more and more into building physics, so I took a course to become an NHER energy assessor.

Passing the baton

I didn’t know it then, but the NEF would go on to be part of my professional world for pretty much the rest of the next 30 years. Many of the friends and contacts I made in the ‘90s have stayed part of my life ever since, and I never stop learning about energy efficiency in buildings.

As I now conclude 10 years as a NEF trustee and almost six as chair, I could not be prouder of the charity’s continued influence and impact today. My sincere thanks go to Dave Evans, the chief executive, and all his team, and also to the fantastic Trustees I have had the privilege of working alongside, as well as our patron, Dr Mary Archer, and president, John Walker.

National Energy Foundation

A long history of achievements

NEF has always been an independent voice on a wide range of issues directly linked to the energy efficiency of buildings in the UK. It has always stood for technical rigour, high-quality interventions, and expertise gained from real-life projects.

Also, for a rare and vital ‘open source’ approach to sharing its insights into how to improve quality of life, comfort, health, affordability, and environmental sustainability through targeted energy improvements, advice, and education.

As well as the NHER, some of NEF’s wide-ranging achievements over the years have included:

  • Providing the impetus and technical background for the Home Energy Conservation Act in 1995, introduced into statute by Baroness Diana Maddock who was a trustee of the Foundation. This law required local authorities to assess the energy efficiency of all their homes, providing a vast data bank over many years.
  • Establishing the Energy Efficiency Accreditation Scheme for businesses, which was transferred to the Carbon Trust in 2005 and later became the Carbon Trust Standard, still in use today.
  • Running a myriad of local advice schemes and specialist energy associations across the UK, including the MK Energy Agency, Thames Valley Energy Centre, South Midlands Renewable Energy Advice Centre, the United Sustainable Energy Agency, the Green Energy Supply Certification Scheme, the Solar Trade Association, the Ground Source Heat Pump Association, Logpile and many others.
  • Winning two coveted gold Ashden Awards, in 2013 for the WHISCERS initiative and again in 2019 for its work with Energiesprong.
  • And I even discovered that NEF has been consulted by groups around the world, including working with partners in Finland and Vietnam to pioneer biodiesel from fish waste in the Mekong delta.
NEF Home Energy Advice

NEF Impact Report

This summer, as I hand over the chair role to Jade Lewis, NEF has published its latest impact report. It gives a clear indication of how energy efficiency issues have become so much more critical since the 1990s.

Through initiatives like Better Housing Better Health, the team is working daily to tackle devastating levels of fuel poverty that we should never be seeing in a first-world economy. NEF is helping residents cope with the crippling cost of fuel bills for both heating and cooling homes and to progress the lower carbon retrofits that are now urgently overdue in the oldest, leakiest homes in Europe.

Quite frankly, the work NEF does today should be the new Government’s most urgent national infrastructure priority.

To give you just a taste, in the last year, NEF has:

  • Saved residents over £4 million per year on their energy bills, via NEF’s SuperHomes, Better Housing Better Health, and the Supplier Network projects.
  • Delivered 1,367 home visits, delivering in-person advice and support.
  • Made more than 8,000 referrals to external supporting services to help with installing measures, befriending services, and access to emergency food vouchers.
  • Started 358 families on their home retrofit journey with a Whole House Plan, added or improved insulation in 649 homes, installed low-carbon technology into 231 homes and replaced 374 inefficient boilers.
  • Worked with 11 housing associations, 232 charities and not-for-profits, and 71 local authorities.

From its pioneering beginnings to the multi-million-pound charity that it is today, NEF has benefitted from many important partnerships and collaborations, including a significant relationship with National Grid in the last couple of years.

So, if you are looking for a partner to achieve meaningful change using evidence, analysis, and creative ideas in the areas of energy efficiency or fuel poverty, talk to the team at NEF.

Talk to them about your projects, aspirations, and areas of need. Together we can continue to achieve better performing homes and provide accessible, life-changing support to communities across the UK.

NEF Impact Report 2023 to 2024
Celebrating my time with NEF
The NEF team