Energy advisor set up with European funding

The North West Fund for Energy & Environmental, managed by 350 Investment Partners, has invested £250,000 in a new business, Community Switch, based in Liverpool.

Community Switch is aimed at the social housing sector and has secured agreements for three-year deals with registered social landlords Wigan & Leigh Housing, Salix Homes in Salford and Blackburn-based Twin Valley Homes, which together are responsible for 40,000 properties.

Community Switch has recruited 10 staff in telesales and intends to add another five employees before March 2014 to take its workforce to 15 with plans for further recruitment throughout the year.

The business is providing its service in partnership with energy supplier Utilita Energy and Energy Helpline, an independent price comparison service.

Patrick Berry, managing director of Community Switch, said switching levels among social housing tenants were low because most switching services were online and many tenants did not have internet access. Community Switch addresses the issue of internet access by working with landlords to proactively contact tenants.

He added: "Our USP is that we provide this service to social housing tenants via the trusted source of their landlord. We provide a full and transparent service with Ofgem accredited services and website and very much look forward to helping tenants to cut energy bills by up to £370 a year."

Revenue for Community Switch is generated by affinity payments from the energy supplier being switched to by a tenant; there is no cost to the landlord.

Jonathan Bryers, partner at 350 Investment Partners, manager of the North West Fund for Energy & Environmental, said: "We believe there is a real and very timely opportunity to deliver material cost and energy savings to social housing tenants in the North West at a time when energy prices are only likely to increase over the long term".

The North West Fund is financed jointly by the European Regional Development Fund and the European Investment Bank.

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