News Article | December 5, 2016
A new approach is needed to retrofit the UK’s housing stock to allow it to contribute to a cost-effective decarbonisation strategy, according to a report published by the Energy Technologies Institute. But the report does not make it really clear what this approach might be. Although deep retrofits of houses for energy efficiency are technically feasible, as detailed in my book the Earthscan Expert Guide to Sustainable Home Refurbishment, at present doing it to the proper standard might cost around the same as rebuilding the entire UK housing stock. New homes built to modern UK Building Regulations standards will cost approximately half as much to heat as a Victorian home, according to the British NHBC Foundation. These new or refurbished homes mean reduced bills for heating, hot water and electricity bills, due to better standards of insulation, draught-proofing and improved airtightness, double glazing and efficient controls (programmer, room thermostats and thermostatic radiator valves). Housing Retrofits – A New Start, written by the ETI’s chief engineer Andrew Haslett, looks at the role of housing retrofitting when seeking to tackle the 20 per cent of emissions that comes from heating the UK’s 28 million homes. Its conclusions come from a two-stage process. The ETI first identified two particular retrofitting approaches that were the most cost-effective in terms of getting the most from time and materials by industrialising the planning and execution of projects. They followed this up by testing them out on five typical UK dwellings (terrace, semi-detached, detached) built from pre-1919 to post-1980, to work out what might be deliverable in the real world. Here are the results: Retrofits were successfully completed on four of the houses, with gas usage reduced by 30-50 per cent. But the costs ranged from £32,000 to £77,000. The experience led the team to conclude that proper investment in supply chain and training might reduce this by about half to £17,000 to £31,000. That’s still a lot. So how do we persuade someone to spend the money? The report highlights that most consumers are not motivated to spend money on efficiency measures because efficiency savings are a very weak driver. That is the “incentive gap”. Instead, the report recommends that improved comfort, health and amenity should be the main incentive to fill this gap, with saving money on bills as a secondary benefit. Meanwhile, at the back end, finding savings in the supply chain by scaling up manufacture and supply, and rewards to investors or installers, and/or legally binding targets for carbon savings (carrots and sticks), would seriously help, both in the social and private sectors. The ETI has made a video about the project: But the route to market is still fuzzy. UK Government spending on grants for home energy efficiency is currently languishing at a 20-year low. This year has seen a massive fall in the number of households helped by government to become more efficient, with the annual number of major energy efficiency measures installed in homes declining by 80 per cent from 1.74 million to 340,000 between the height of delivery in 2012 and 2015, according to the Association for the Conservation of Energy. The government seems to lack any sense of the value of energy efficiency compared to investing in large scale energy projects. The ETI reckons that with carbon prices at such a modest level one way to improve housing efficiency lies in more effort to tackle the approximately four million hard to treat cavity walls across the UK. But governments have been trying for years to incentivise this and not even all the “easy wins” have been fixed. Although the ETI wants to make eco-retrofits “an integral part of improving the amenity and value of the dwellings”, rather than seeing them as a series of independent measures, it does not present a financial model for doing this. The only hope it offers is a vague one for “a new kind of service provider (integrator)” to replace existing energy providers, on a franchised basis (local teams), “that aims for a much higher level of service provision, starting with existing energy supplies”. Such companies would have “a plan for the decarbonisation of supply of each dwelling” but “only if a market environment can be created over the next five years”. Given the current preoccupations of the UK Government – Brexit – and the lack of any mention of climate change or social care in the government’s budgetary spending plans announced last week, that’s a big ask. It’s not as if the ETI is asking for a lot of cash compared to the scale of the task. It says: “£10 billion of private and public funds over the next 10 years would provide a platform that would enable investment of roughly £100bn out to 2050″. The incentive gap is to be addressed by yet another report, soon to be released, this time from the UK Financial Stability Board’s Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures. It will contain their first set of recommendations about how to help close the gap between the climate/sustainability world and traditional finance thinking. It will say that all infrastructure projects – not just housing retrofits – have a climate-related element to them, be that energy efficiency (mitigation), resilience against adverse weather events (adaptation) or others. Therefore policy to encourage the reporting of more information on these topics will help to bring more visibility to the benefits. And standardising how this information is reported would ensure that it can be used for investor analysis, enabling investors to set targets, and the creation of more products that are attractive to investors. Well that’s what the Investor Confidence Project is doing. I wonder if the FSB knows about it. The ETI is conducting important research. What they have done is expose the difficulty of the task but they have only begun to chart a path to accomplishing it. NOTE: A version of this article appeared on The Fifth Estate on 29 November. David Thorpe is the author of:
News Article | October 6, 2016
The last 18 months have been a major set-back in the British policy landscape affecting carbon emissions from buildings: the trajectory to zero carbon new build has been paused; Government support for Green Deal finance was withdrawn with no alternative mechanisms in place to encourage and enable investment by able-to-pay households; government announced that funding from the Energy Company Obligation will be reduced again; and a review of business energy taxes has led to proposals for a new tax structure but, as yet, no coherent supporting framework to encourage energy efficiency action. This is despite the fact that an increase in policy action is required: In June, the 5th Carbon Budget was adopted by Government setting firm carbon targets for the period from 2028 to 2032. Parliament approved them in July. Reaching those targets will require bold and ambitious policy action across all sectors. However, new research by the Association for the Conservation of Energy and the Regulatory Assistance Project paints a worrying picture of the UK’s prospects for achieving its carbon targets in the building sector: the Government’s own projections for abatement show that the UK will not meet the 5th Carbon Budget in buildings. Taken together, policies as they currently stand are projected by the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to achieve a 21% cut in direct emissions from buildings by 2030 compared to 1990, just 12% below the ‘business as usual’ emissions for 2030. This means that the UK’s emissions from buildings will exceed those recommended by the Committee on Climate Change for the 5th Carbon Budget, in 2030, by 18%. Worryingly, a large part of the projected abatement from buildings (85%) is considered by the Committee on Climate Change to be ‘at-risk’, and after the vote to leave the EU there is uncertainty around which previously EU driven policies driven will remain. In other words, the majority of projected emissions abatement from buildings is seen as uncertain and may not be achieved. It may not be technically possible, and it is certainly not economical, to close this abatement gap in the power, transport and industrial sectors instead. Consequently, we need to de-risk, reform, extend and expand existing policies, but also introduce new instruments in order to speed up carbon abatement in the buildings sector. Additional regulatory policies such as Energy Efficiency Standards at point-of-sale (as is currently being implemented in France and considered in Scotland) are needed and new build standards need to be tightened towards zero carbon or nearly zero energy. Alongside, a substantial financing scheme offering low-interest loans is required to enable households and businesses to upgrade their properties and make them fit for a low-carbon future. Our research shows that the benefits of meeting the 5th Carbon Budget in buildings justify considerable public and private investment to capture them. We quantified the main costs and benefits generally considered for formal policy impact assessments, calculated in accordance with official guidance. The result is that the benefits exceed the costs to a similar degree as High Speed 2 (a planned high-speed railway linking London to the north of the UK) and the smart meter rollout. This means that there is a strong economic case for investing in upgrading the UK’s building stock. We estimate the net benefit from energy savings, emissions savings, improved air quality and health, and comfort and productivity to be in excess of £45bn. And this figure does not include the value of employment needed across the country to deliver the 5th Carbon Budget in buildings, the value of avoided gas imports and improved energy security, the GDP boost it would deliver nor the additional revenue it would generate for the public coffers. Ensuring this happens depends on the creation of a robust and long-term policy framework that supports the development of sustainable markets for low carbon retrofit and construction. The most strategic opportunity at which such a step-change can be signalled is in the forthcoming Carbon Plan; the Building Renovation Strategy due next spring also presents an opportunity. Pedro Guertler is Research Director for the Association for the Conservation of Energy (ACE) Dr Jan Rosenow is a Senior Research Fellow for the Centre on Innovation and Energy Demand, based in SPRU at the University of Sussex and a Senior Associate at the Regulatory Assistance Project
Simcock N.,Keele University |
MacGregor S.,Keele University |
Catney P.,Keele University |
Dobson A.,Keele University |
And 5 more authors.
Energy Policy | Year: 2014
Reducing household energy consumption is an essential element of the UK Government's carbon reduction strategy. Whilst increased knowledge alone will not necessarily lead to tangible actions on the part of consumers, knowledge of various kinds is, we argue, still important if domestic energy usage is to be reduced. In an attempt to 'educate' the public, governments have typically resorted to 'mass information' campaigns that have been considered largely unsuccessful. Yet understanding what alternative forms of learning could be cultivated has been limited by the dearth of research that explores whether and why people consider information about energy and energy saving to be useful. By exploring this, we can move towards an understanding of how knowledge about energy saving can be better shared and communicated, enabling more meaningful learning to take place. Drawing on in-depth qualitative data with fifty-five participants, this paper highlights a range of factors that affect perceptions of energy information. It argues that these factors are not discrete, but are interlinked. A fundamentally different model of knowledge exchange is needed for more effective learning about energy saving to occur. A number of implications for policy are proposed in our conclusions. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.
Catney P.,Keele University |
MacGregor S.,Keele University |
Dobson A.,Keele University |
Hall S.M.,University of Manchester |
And 4 more authors.
Local Environment | Year: 2014
This paper challenges "Big Society (BS) Localism", seeing it as an example of impoverished localist thinking which neglects social justice considerations. We do this through a critical examination of recent turns in the localist discourse in the UK which emphasise self-reliant communities and envisage a diminished role for the state. We establish a heuristic distinction between positive and negative approaches to localism. We argue that the Coalition Government's BS programme fits with a negative localist frame as it starts from an ideological assumption that the state acts as a barrier to community-level associational activity and that it should play a minimal role. "BS localism" (as we call it) has been influential over the making of social policy, but it also has implications for the achievement of environmental goals. We argue that this latest incarnation of localism is largely ineffective in solving problems requiring collective action because it neglects the important role that inequalities play in inhibiting the development of associational society. Drawing upon preliminary research being undertaken at the community scale, we argue that staking environmental policy success on the ability of local civil society to fill the gap left after state retrenchment runs the risk of no activity at all. © 2013 © 2013 Taylor & Francis.
Guertler P.,Association for the Conservation of Energy
Energy Policy | Year: 2012
Energy efficiency and social programmes have failed to stem the dramatic increase in the number of fuel poor households in recent years. As the 2016 deadline for eradicating fuel poverty nears, energy efficiency and fuel poverty programmes are undergoing significant changes. The ambitions for Britain's Green Deal, the overhaul of supplier obligations alongside the winding down of Warm Front, and the introduction of an incentive for renewable heat combine to form a sea change in how energy efficiency and fuel poverty objectives are financed and delivered. Green Deal Finance (GDF) eliminates the up-front capital cost of energy efficiency measures to the household by linking repayments to energy savings and spreading them over many years. This paper asks whether and how GDF could be beneficial to fuel poor households. Using scenarios modelled on the English House Condition Survey, it explores the extent to which fuel poverty could be reduced, allowing for repayments incurred by GDF. It examines how much further fuel poverty could be alleviated were the capital cost subsidised or repayments supported, and concludes that a flexible design for GDF is necessary if it is to contribute to alleviating fuel poverty. © 2011.
Royston S.,Association for the Conservation of Energy
Energy Research and Social Science | Year: 2014
People manage heat flows in their homes through diverse skilful engagements, including interactions with a wide range of materials that help to generate heat, move it around, or prevent its movement. Using these strategies, we try to ensure that heat is where it is needed, when it is needed, and can also try to minimise its wastage (heat-out-of place and heat-out-of-time). However, the practical knowledge or know-how used in managing these thermal flows has received little attention to date, despite its relevance to topical debates on energy consumption. This paper explores how experience-based know-how is used in monitoring and managing heat flows in the home. I also consider three processes that stimulate the development of new know-how: changes in the life-course, in material arrangements, and in shared understandings. These themes are illustrated using quotes from various sources, such as web forums and advice sites. Finally, I consider how these ideas relate to wider theories of experience and know-how, and offer some reflections on what this approach might mean for research, policy and practice on sustainable energy use. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.