New hub needed to focus on existing buildings

Written by Andrew Warren on . Posted in Articles and Blog, Perspective

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One of the great triumphs of genuine private/public co-operation has been the work of the non-profit Zero Carbon Hub. Ever since its formation in 2008, it has proved to be the acknowledged entity to which everyone turns – companies and Ministers alike – to consider how best to progress towards ensuring that only the most energy and carbon-efficient new buildings are constructed.

But the vast majority of the buildings we shall be living and working in forty years from now have already been built. Precious few of these are even vaguely zero carbon; most waste bucketfuls of energy every day. By common consent we have one of the oldest, and certainly one of the least energy efficient, building stocks in the entire western world.

It is clear that one of the main challenges over the ensuing decades will continue to be to dramatically improve the energy performance of these buildings. This will need to happen at a rate long aspired to. But – as has been shown in the case of the flagship Green Deal Finance policy – right now falling woefully short of even its cost-effective (let alone technical) potential.

Labour conference puts energy efficiency centre stage

Written by Joanne Wade on . Posted in Articles and Blog, Perspective

Shadow-housing-minister-Caroline-Flint

ACE welcomes Shadow Secretary for Energy and Climate, Caroline Flint’s pledge at the Labour party conference today to ‘make energy saving a national infrastructure priority’.

We also welcome the commitment to require private rented accommodation to meet a decency standard by 2027: we urge the Labour party to ensure that this standard is set high enough (EPC band C) to deliver homes that are fit for purpose in a low energy, low carbon economy.

Delivering on the infrastructure priority promise requires investment: why then are Labour confining themselves only to a level of action that can be achieved ‘without spending any more money’?

A promise to make 200,000 homes warm every year is good – but not good enough: it could leave families living in dangerously cold homes for a further 30 years. The six million low income families living in homes that are too expensive to heat need real priority to be given to this investment. Using only a very small portion of the £45 billion invested in infrastructure each year would enable the level of action to be increased enormously. We therefore urge Labour to increase the ambition of their implementation plans to match the strength of their pledge.

Energy efficiency investment will strengthen the UK economy

Written by Joanne Wade on . Posted in Articles and Blog, Perspective

Joanne Wade

WWF today published a report from Cambridge Econometrics that sets out the value that reducing carbon emissions will bring to the UK economy. The action needed to meet the UK’s 4th carbon budget, which will include significant investment in energy efficiency, will deliver 190,000 additional jobs, make households better off financially, provide new business opportunities and result in a net increase in annual Government revenue of £5.7bn by 2030.

 
Average net benefits to households will come close to offsetting the impact of increasing energy prices. These benefits will not be felt equally however, and the report notes that government needs therefore to target support at exposed or vulnerable groups. That is why we – and our allies in the End Fuel Poverty Coalition – are calling for the homes of all low income households to be improved to Energy Performance Certificate Band C by 2025. Improving homes to this standard will result in dramatic improvements to both the energy bill affordability and quality of life of their occupants.

 
The energy efficiency benefits set out in the WWF report can only be realised, however, if investors are confident in the market for energy efficiency goods and services: a government commitment to making energy efficiency a top infrastructure priority is key to this, together with long-term, rigorously enforced regulation of the energy efficiency of buildings.

Don’t let this first step become tied up in red tape

Written by Andrew Warren on . Posted in Articles and Blog, Perspective

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Back in 2011 the Government introduced legislation that Ministers promised would outlaw the letting of any F- or G-rated buildings from 2018. This month marks the conclusion of the
Government’s formal consultation detailing precisely how this potentially market-revolutionising policy will be delivered in practice.

The private rented sector is of growing importance in the residential sector. In the last 15 years the number of people renting from private landlords has increased from 10 to 18 per cent of all households.

That is a sizeable percentage. But nothing like as large as the proportion of the buildings in the non-residential sector that are rented out.

Public or private – the displays should be the same

Written by Andrew Warren on . Posted in Articles and Blog, Perspective

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The clue is in the name. The Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS) is the government’s latest flagship programme, designed to stimulate every large enterprise to invest in energy efficiency measures. In essence, it mandates having a full energy survey of each outfit’s energy using activities every four years. And identifying the energy saving opportunities.

After a year’s deliberation, at the end of June details were published by the Department of Energy and Climate Change detailing just how each eligible organisation can comply. Broadly, those involved include every business and third sector organisation employing over 250 people or turning over above £50m per year: in all, involving nearly 10,000 different entities.

Mindful that there is already a plethora of other reporting mechanisms in which many may already be involved, DECC seems to be making an overt effort to enable participants in other schemes to re-use any data collected. That is true for those in sectors involved with Climate Change Agreements. Or the European emissions trading scheme. Or the Energy Efficiency Carbon Reduction Commitment. Or greenhouse gas emissions data.

ACE appoints new Director

Written by Andrew Warren on . Posted in Articles and Blog, Perspective

Joanne_Wade_small

The Association for the Conservation of Energy will have a new executive director from this September. Dr Joanne Wade will replace founder/director Andrew Warren, who retires after 33 years.

A former director of energy and environmental consultancy Impetus Consulting, she was for nine years until 2004 the research director of the Association.

As well as acting as a freelance consultant, she lectures and supervises at Imperial College London, City University and the University of Surrey. Amongst recent clients have been the UK Energy Research Centre, the European Commission, Consumer Focus, Which? and the Department of Energy & Climate Change.

She is currently a steering group member of the Centre for Innovation & Energy Demand at the University of Sussex; an honorary senior research fellow at Imperial College; and a Fellow and member of the Energy Advisory panel of the Energy Institute.

She has been chair of the board of trustees of the eaga Charitable Trust, a Commissioner of the London Sustainable Development Commission; a trustee of the Global Action Plan; and an Associate lecturer at the Open University.

Joanne will act as the interim director up until May 2015. Andrew Warren will continue in a part-time advisory capacity, again up until that date.

Build energy saving success on three crucial pillars

Written by Andrew Warren on . Posted in Articles and Blog, Perspective

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It sounds a bit pejorative. But constructing an effective policy programme for energy saving is very like persuading donkeys to do what you want.

Donkeys are stubborn creatures, not that malleable. Obtaining co-operation requires three things, mostly operating together. These are carrots (to motivate) and sticks (to enforce). And most important of all, tambourines (to retain attention). Every single effective energy conservation programme incorporates one or more, preferably all three, aspects.

First, consider sticks. In other words, regulations and standards and, importantly, their effective policing. That means tougher building regulations, for existing as well as newly constructed buildings. It means outlawing the worst energy performing products, and ensuring any energy labelling is accurate.

Government turns from maximisation to minimisation

Written by Andrew Warren on . Posted in Articles and Blog, Perspective

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In October 2010, the energy and climate change minister, Greg Barker, formally invited me to chair a new advisory Forum. It was to be one of four reporting directly to him.

Over the next two years before launch, each was concerned with the development of different aspects of the new Government’s flagship policy. Our declared overall objective was to deliver “an ambitious programme to increase the energy efficiency of the UK building stock. In particular, we expect it to contribute to a 29 per cent reduction in carbon emissions from our homes and 13 per cent from non-domestic properties by 2020.”

We were christened the Green Deal Maximisation Forum. Our job was to work with Government to come up with measures to boost uptake levels.

It’s official. Energy consumption in the UK is on the way down

Written by Andrew Warren on . Posted in Articles and Blog, Perspective

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Here is a simple test for everybody. By how much has UK energy consumption already increased during this century? Actually, this isn’t just a question for generalists. I have been regularly trying it out on energy specialists in companies, in trade bodies. Even among the senior civil service. The answer given varies. But almost without exception, the response is that consumption has gone up. Sometimes by 5 per cent, sometimes 10 per cent, sometimes 20 per cent or more.

I then ask: how much do you think the country’s wealth has increased over the same period? And when I tell people that – even despite the recession – Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has risen by no less than 58 per cent between 2000 and 2012, I instantly get a re-evaluation of how much energy consumption has grown.

“Ah well, in that case, we are probably talking about a similarly high figure for energy usage. Not 20 per cent, but 40 per cent. Even 50 per cent.”

Buy a home and get money back from the government

Written by Andrew Warren on . Posted in Articles and Blog, Perspective

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The Prime Minister was unequivocal. This summer his Government will introduce a new incentive scheme to encourage home movers to invest in energy saving measures.

At his most recent monthly cross-examination by House of Commons Committee chairs, he quite specifically described it as a “stamp duty discount for people who take action to improve the energy performance and energy efficiency of their homes” (Q49).

I only wish that this description had been accurate. Sadly it is not. Because formally the new scheme is not directly related to the stamp duty transaction. And, due to that, it can be argued there is no requirement whatsoever for the key professional groups involved in the buying and selling of homes – specifically, solicitors and licensed conveyancers, and estate agents – to inform anybody about the new scheme.