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Anne Nicol: Energy Advisor

Ten years? Wow, how did that happen?!?! Where did the time go and how changed my ID picture looks from when I commenced work…

Do I enjoy my job? Truth is when I applied to be an ‘Energy Champion’ - as our title was then - I had little idea of what it might all entail. I come from a farming background, married into it and had four children and now granny to seven grandchildren. My original skills saw me managing large scale kitchens until motherhood took over. While at home I did drive the occasional tractor, tend the green house, sit on school committees and parent groups, become elder at my church, organised agricultural training courses and made wedding cakes to order. In the late eighties we bought our first computer, floppy discs, and all. Skills learnt and children away to college, I went out to work and for some time worked with a design agency then saw the advert for this job, which took my interest, the rest is history.

Boilers, programmers, heating systems, renewable energy, grants available (as there were in the beginning) was a lot to learn about. We had no previous experience and learned a lot from our City and Guilds coaches. It was a lot to take in but somehow with team help right from the beginning we passed our exams.

We had no clients, little money, no ideas of where we should begin except the knowledge that whatever we do had to impact on a person’s control of their own Carbon Footprint.

We began by knocking doors in St Andrews and introducing ourselves to our catchment area and from there it began and we grew steadily to becoming a charity & are now also part of Cosy Kingdom.

My main interest within our Charity has been advising clients on saving energy but have also really enjoyed working with children in schools, covering events in colleges and talking to groups and promoting StAndEN at local events. The charity started up an annual Reuse event where basically you brought along good items no longer required and if you saw something you could make use of you took it home. No money involved, only if you wished you could make a donation to our charity. For at least ten years we have been involved with University students, collecting reusable items when they leave University. The items are then re-allocated to new students or to people within the community who need them.

I really enjoy my job, I meet such a variety of people from all backgrounds, nationalities and lifestyles. All with the same common denominator; to help reduce their energy costs. This can be through advising about what things they need to look at in the home. It always amazes me how simple draughts can be overlooked by persons living in their own homes, requiring us to point this out to them.

I love when we are able to have a new heating system installed for a client or have the pleasure of telling a client they qualify for our free handyman services. Clients who qualify for other types of help are often unaware of what is out there to help them and where I am able to advise, or fill in an application form, is a great feel-good factor of my job.

I have seldom met any client who has not picked up some kind of advice we have offered and acted on at some point. This can be from taking better control of their energy bills, understanding how to read them, learning how to switch suppliers, keep an eye on temperature control and programmers, understanding tariffs and exit fees, help and support from referral agencies. Our discretionary fund also comes as a great life saver for many a client who may be struggling.

I don’t believe anyone enjoys having to call an energy supplier; so many buttons to press, so long on hold & then having to explain whatever the issue is to – frequently – multiple different people on the other end of the phone. Believe me, the same thing can happen to us but, with experience gained over time, we know when making a call on the client’s behalf is the best course of action. Fuel debt can be – and is – very worrying for anyone who experiences it. Once we have all of the information, we can help the client set up repayment plans, or even apply for funding to help with paying it.

I am lucky to be working with such a lovely team of people within St Andrews Environmental Network (StAndEN) and Cosy Kingdom who all have our clients’ best interests at heart. Few jobs out there give clients a feel-good factor about what you do but this one does and proud I am to be part of the team!

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