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DECC’s Household Energy Efficiency Statistics: the good, the bad and the whaa…?

Liz Warren is a founder and director of SE2, a small consultancy helping individuals, communities and organisations build their capacity to respond to climate change. You can find out more about their work at www.se-2.co.uk.

DECC recently published statistics on the take-up of energy efficiency measures by households during 2015.  In this blog post, we unpick some of the data, exploring the good, the bad and the frankly baffling within the rich data set provided. How did policy announcements affect the market? Have whole-house energy assessments unlocked energy efficiency opportunities? And could we have found the elusive answer for improving the private rented sector?

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Greater London Authority,Private Rented Sector

A Warm Deal for London’s Renters

The need for a London-wide minimum energy efficiency standard

It is a shocking fact that hundreds of thousands of London’s renters are shivering in damp, draughty homes they can’t afford to heat. This problem could be solved by effective minimum energy efficiency standards in the private rented sector – but national standards are weak and difficult to enforce, leaving households at the mercy of their landlords.

ACE is asking the next Mayor to stand up for London’s renters and pledge to introduce a London-wide minimum energy efficiency standard for private rented homes, of Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) Band C by 2025.  See our full ask here.

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Treasury slammed following 9,000 cold home deaths

The Treasury was strongly criticised this week after a Panorama investigation revealed that over 9,000 people in England and Wales died from living in cold homes last winter.

The Panorama programme, ‘Too Poor to Stay Warm’, broadcast on Monday, cited research by academics at UCL which shows that a fifth of the 43,900 Excess Winter Deaths in Winter 2014/15 were due to people living in cold homes.

Yet Government support for energy efficiency has crashed by 80%. Making homes energy efficient is considered by experts as the only long term solution to fuel poverty, which affects over 4 million households in the UK.  The UK has one of the oldest and least energy efficient building stocks in Europe.

In our own research published earlier this week, also reported in The Guardian, we found that:

  • the number of energy efficiency measures installed in British homes has fallen by 80% since 2012
  • the number of households helped with energy efficiency measures has crashed by 76%
  • investment in home energy efficiency has declined by over 50%

We also found that the very low level of energy efficiency support now on offer is set to continue for the rest of this Parliament. During the last Parliament 5 million households were helped but we estimate that only 1.2 million households will receive energy efficiency measures this Parliament.

The Government axed Warm Front during the last Parliament, and the Green Deal and Green Deal Home Improvement Fund last year.  It also axed the UK’s zero carbon policy for new homes. Only the Energy Company Obligation is left, a levy on energy bills that was slashed in the Spending Review in December 2015.

A major alliance of 200 organisations and businesses under the Energy Bill Revolution banner is calling on the Government to make home energy efficiency an infrastructure priority. It is the most popular energy solution in the UK today with support across Parliament.

But the Treasury has refused to allocate one penny of the £120bn infrastructure budget to make homes energy efficient, despite the fact energy efficiency is classified as infrastructure by both the International Energy Agency and the European Investment Bank. According to the Government’s own economic data, making homes energy efficient also provides comparable economic returns to other infrastructure projects like roads and railways.

Jenny Holland, Head of Campaigns at ACE, said: “Our research findings are truly shocking. The UK has some of the worst housing stock in Europe, with levels of fuel poverty unheard of in much colder countries like Sweden. And UCL’s findings make clear that our cold homes were responsible for 9,000 avoidable deaths last winter. But Treasury help to upgrade our freezing homes has been slashed to the bone. The Government has pledged to make all fuel poor homes energy efficient by 2030, but without new funding, it will take them 94 years to meet their pledge. This is simply not good enough. By making energy efficiency an infrastructure priority, the Treasury could transform the lives of some of our most vulnerable citizens, making their fuel bills affordable and greatly reducing the risk of cold-related illness.

Ed Matthew, Director of the Energy Bill Revolution alliance said: “The decision by Treasury to decimate energy efficiency support will cost lives. Yet making UK homes energy efficient provides strong economic returns, as much as any other infrastructure project. But Osborne has chosen to invest £50 billion in HS2, £30 billion in road building and not one penny of the infrastructure budget in retrofitting the crumbling UK building stock. Perhaps he thinks there are more votes for the Conservatives by shaving a few minutes off a railway ride than saving the lives of the fuel poor.

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Latest developments in energy efficiency financing

Dr. Steve Fawkes is the founder of EnergyPro Ltd which provides advisory services in energy efficiency financing and incubates new ventures. He is Senior Adviser to the Investor Confidence Project and sits on the Investment Committee of the London Energy Efficiency Fund. His blog onlyelevenpercent.com covers energy efficiency financing and related matters.

For many years the energy efficiency industry has complained of lack of finance as being a barrier – but the truth is more complex. The industry has always focused on capital cost and energy cost savings, usually expressed as payback period. It is time to move beyond this simplistic model. In the last few years the existence and value of non-energy benefits such as increased productivity, better health, increased revenues and many others has started to be recognized. The International Energy Agency estimated that non-energy benefits could be worth four times the value of energy savings. Recent work by the UK Green Building Council, Marks & Spencer and others, has looked at valuing these benefits in the retail sector. As well as financial value these non-energy benefits are much more strategic than simple energy savings, if retailers can increase sales or reduce employee turnover, those are strategic issues in way that energy savings will never be. The energy efficiency industry needs to learn to identify and value the strategic non-energy benefits in business cases for investment, whether it be internally or externally funded investment. It also needs to learn to build better business cases.

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#LocalStories

Local stories – Energy Efficiency in Bracknell

Our latest local report, on energy efficiency in Bracknell – the fourth in a series of area reports –  is out now. We’re really grateful for the contributions from Bracknell Forest Council, InstaGroup and the Thames Valley Vision project.

BracknellHazel Hill, Bracknell Forest Sustainability Officer, said: “I have seen first-hand how having energy efficiency measures installed can help homes feel warmer, save money and improve people’s lives. Bracknell Forest Council’s Warm and Well scheme, which ran for two years, was a great success and was able to help almost 300 households. However, due to the short term nature of current funding mechanisms, schemes such as Warm and Well can only run for short periods, which limits the number of people they can help. I welcome this report, which highlights the massive benefits to local residents of home upgrades and shows how more of the same could cut bills and improve residents’ health and well-being.”

TVVCharlie Edwards, Customer Project Manager at Scottish and Southern Energy Power Distribution said: “As network operators, we are faced with a range of opportunities and challenges to help bring about more sustainable, reliable and cost-effective electricity solutions for our customers. Thames Valley Vision, centred within Bracknell, is just one example of the innovative projects being run all across the UK. Working closely with the local council, businesses and over 300 project participants across Bracknell, the project is helping a wide range of customers make use of low-carbon technologies in order to improve their energy efficiency.”

Snug logoBradley Isaacs, Operations Manager at InstaGroup, said:“InstaGroup’s workforce has huge pride in their work and in the visible improvements they have been able to make to their local area. But the last 12 months have been hard for businesses like ours so it’s great to see a report like this which proves that there is so muchmore that could be done in the area.” InstaGroup’s nationwide network of independent installers, the Snug Network, has also posted the Bracknell report.

Bracknell MP Dr Phillip Lee added: “I welcome the report by the Association for the Conservation of Energy, which sheds light on the energy efficiency of the housing stock and businesses across the Bracknell constituency. As a former member of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee I take an interest in the energy sector and advancements in energy-saving technology. I commend the work that local installers and programme managers have done in recent years to implement energy saving features in homes, such as better insulation and more efficient boilers. I believe the Government is right to review energy efficiency policy to ensure better targeting and I look forward to working with both Government colleagues and local practitioners to ensure that more local people benefit.”

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#LocalStories

Local stories – Energy Efficiency in Penrith and The Border

Our area report on energy efficiency in Penrith and The Border is the third constituency-focused report in our series. Using a combination of national datasets containing constituency-level information, and case studies from local practitioners, we hope there is something of interest for everyone living in and around the area, and are pleased to have seen Cumbria Crack cover it.

CAfSWe spoke to Andrew Northcott, project manager of the Cold to Cosy Homes scheme, who said: “Local householders really appreciate our visits – it gives them confidence to make the changes they need to keep their bills down and homes warm. But to reach the most vulnerable people, we need referrals from other services like the NHS. That’s why this report is so useful, as it will help us highlight the benefits of energy efficiency to a wider audience.”

We are also grateful for Hazel Collingwood’s time. Hazel is the Health and Wellbeing Coordinator for Eden at Age UK Carlisle and Eden, and said: “Having a warm home is an important factor when we assess an older person’s wellbeing. Even Age UK Carlisle and Edensmall changes, such as excluding draughts, can make a huge difference”. However Hazel is concerned that support is not always reaching people in the rural areas she works in. “There are a lot of people in this area that are very isolated. These people really need to be helped more. It is great that a report like this can draw attention to the particular issues that affect people here.”

Do you live in the area, and have any energy efficiency-related stories you’d like to share? We’d love to hear them!

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“Lumbered with a backward-looking mindset”

Speaking at an event on delivering heat networks in Parliament today – organised and hosted by the Centre on Innovation in Energy Demand; Reframing Energy Demand: Innovation for Sustainable Heat; the UK Energy Research Centre; and the Parliamentary Office of Science & Technology – ACE Director Joanne Wade made reference to an interesting and pertinent speech on energy given by David Cameron to the Local Government Association in 2006 (thanks to Electrical Review’s Gossage column in its Jan/Feb 2016 edition).

Cameron said that “where the [Labour] government sees nuclear power as the first choice, under our framework it would become a last resort.” “In Britain we are still lumbered with the same backward-looking, central-planning mindset that has dominated thinking on electricity since the first half of the last  century.” He concluded: “The future of energy is not top-down, it’s not centralised – it’s bottom-up and decentralised.”

In our view, very 21st century, but practitioners in energy efficiency, heat networks and renewables would be forgiven for thinking this is not the philosophy underpinning energy policy today. Let’s make sure it will be again.

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Taking action to improve energy refurbishment of flats

David Weatherall has worked for many years on energy efficiency policy at UK and European level. He works for Future Climate and the Energy Saving Trust, and is currently a Knowledge Exchange Fellow with Oxford University Law Faculty working on the legal barriers to home energy improvements.

Most people might assume that flats are warmer than houses. After all, every flat has at least one other dwelling above or below it, making it a lot more difficult for heat to escape.  And flats tend to be newer than houses, with more modern construction, glazing and insulation features.

And across the English housing stock the average energy efficiency of a flat is indeed higher than that of a house. But that fact masks the problem that we’re not improving our older flats with energy efficiency upgrades at the same rate as we are our houses.

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Our response to HMRC’s consultation on reduced rate of VAT for Energy Saving Materials

ACE has submitted its response to HMRC’s consultation on proposed changes to the reduced rate of VAT for the installation of energy saving materials in compliance with a recent decision by the European Court. In the summer of 2012, ACE took the lead in convening a broad coalition of interested organisations who were concerned about the implications of the Reasoned Opinion sent by the European Commission to the UK Government to the effect that its 5% reduced rate of VAT on energy saving materials went beyond the scope of the 2006 European VAT Directive. Over subsequent years we have led the coalition in:

  • encouraging the UK Government to respond robustly to the Commission in defence of its reduced rate;
  • providing the Government with a detailed report setting out the reasons we believed that the UK’s reduced rate did in fact form part of a social policy;
  • liaising closely with officials both before and after the CJEU judgment, setting out our view that the UK Government should use the vires in both Category 10 and Category 10(a) of Annex III of the VAT Directive to retain as much as possible of the reduced rate.

Notwithstanding a few concerns, we broadly welcome the Government’s proposals.

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Installers,Retrofit

Installer Power: Releasing the potential for local building trades to get energy improvements into homes

Catrin Maby OBE is an independent researcher and consultant, and PhD candidate at Cardiff University, with more than 30 years’ experience in delivering energy advice and energy efficiency programmes.

Installer Power: the key to unlocking low carbon retrofit in private housing’ by Catrin Maby and Alice Owen (University of Leeds) was supported by the Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts Climate Change Collaboration.

It’s time to face up to reality. We need to achieve ‘near zero energy’ levels for all our home by 2050, but what are we actually doing to achieve this?  We have run programmes to increase the deployment of those technologies that fit a short term simplistic view of what is ‘cost-effective’, and Feed in Tariffs to shift the market in microgeneration. This is not enough. The focus is on single technologies, and there is little incentive or even encouragement to achieve really deep energy savings.

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