Retrofit Roundtable – Tools and updates for the public sector

Series: Energy efficiency in London
Monday 10th June 2013

Scale, partnerships, flexibility and context were the themes running through this ‘mid-term review’ of the government’s Green Deal and Energy Company Obligation programmes for energy efficiency. The role of boroughs and housing associations came up throughout, as ‘trusted brands’ as well as information and implementation agents. This has been the role they’ve been assigned since the two programmes were conceived, but what was clear from this event is that there’s increasing support for the sector, rather than just reliance on it – even if some of that support is peer-to-peer or public-private.

Sponsored by EDF Energy and hosted by Pinsent Masons, the morning roundtable included an uptake update, finance options, GLA support mechanisms, and the experiences of an ECO pilot and Green Deal community engagement programme.

The session was designed to provide headline reports from a range of players for further exploration, and to encourage dialogue amongst the policy-, finance- and delivery-focused audience. The presentations are available to download below, including contact information where available.

Scale came up repeatedly in terms of programme delivery, the viability of retrofit schemes, support mechanisms and securing finance.

Despite negative early reviews on the economics of Green Deals – wherein property owners (or tenants) pay off qualifying efficiency measures through energy bills – Andrew Benfield of Energy Saving Trust said uptake is climbing. There are now 1,500 Green Deal advisors and 200 assessor organisations in place, and more than 30,000 assessments have been conducted since the January 2013 roll-out.

While fewer than 200 Green Deals have been agreed, the Department for Energy and Climate Change will release a raft of key nationwide statistics, including Green Deals agreed to date, on June 27th.

Larissa Bulla, Principal Policy and Programme Advisor with the GLA, brought the focus to London, citing the Mayor’s 60% CO2 reduction target for 2025 and the significant market potential in meeting that and other environmental targets.

The size of London’s housing stock also means grant-funding potential. As Bulla put it, the capital has a 21% share of the £1.3b ECO pot; even excluding the Affordable Warmth element available only to private-sector landlords, that’s £232m annually. “Assuming little uptake by the private sector” of the Carbon Reduction and Carbon Saving Community programmes, “there is £232m annual funding available to social landlords for solid-wall insulation and hard-to-treat cavity insulation.”

Working in partnership with boroughs and delivery agents to unlock and leverage that funding, the GLA developed a series of tools for boroughs, including a survey, case studies, and workshops focused on overcoming planning, political and information barriers and maximising take-up. The RE:NEW Support Team (formerly Programme Delivery Unit), works across development, financing, procurement and implementation, and the GLA is also establishing a pipeline of retrofit opportunities to provide continuity and secure investment in the sector.

Using the same multi-partner strategy, Pinsent Masons is working with local authorities and the private sector to harness ECO funding through area-based schemes – these aim to bring ECO funding to a particular area to improve homes and living conditions, stimulate job creation and educate the community in energy behaviour, whilst providing ECO funders with access to large-scale opportunities with a blend of ECO measures that can be delivered cost effectively.

That flexible approach also applies to identifying grant-eligible properties, which can be grouped together by ownership and/or type, even across a number of boroughs.

The ECO Affordable Warmth pilot outlined by London Warm Zone’s Nigel Turner in turn looks at flexible ways to deliver for private-sector homes. The pilot, being delivered by EDF, London Warm Zone and East London boroughs, secured the household eligibility data necessary to tap into EDF’s Affordable Warmth budget, and will start with a tried-and-true boiler replacement programme, with plans for 600 households – and a measured learning process that will help the group deliver more private-sector retrofit programmes.

The pilot, like LWZ’s earlier work, focuses heavily on vulnerable residents, whom Turner pointed out can be hard to identify and engage. The pilot uses a multi-lingual team of door-to-door assessments and offers a one-stop shop for the whole process, through to post-installation care and Income Max, which helps people understand and secure all the benefits they’re entitled to.

One area where flexibility was felt to be lacking was day-to-day issues like parking restrictions and the congestion charge, which speakers reported were discouraging advisors and contractors from working within the M25 – Benfield said most providers to date are outside central London, which itself has slowed assessments and works.

Context came up partly in the sense of the outside world and the media. Damian Hemmings reported the 60 free Green Deal assessments Merton was able to offer as part of its Pioneer Places grant-share were snatched up quickly, and the borough also chose to approach four small businesses for assessment. In a matter of weeks, the programme was oversubscribed, with 65 home and 4 business assessments in the pipeline.

However, the initially low number of advisors meant slow going, and some registrants cancelled their assessment after negative reviews of the Green Deal began to appear in the media. Sustainable Merton’s Kevin Godding said it’s far harder now to get people to sign up.

Most speakers agreed that a key accelerator in the coming months will be greater understanding – from resident through supplier level – of exactly where and how the shorter-lived ECO programme, currently set to expire in 2015, can be used to bolster Green Deals, where it fits in the context of other public-sector funding available, and how to roll it out to vulnerable households.

There was strong support for a second round of ECO amongst the group, and hopes for an autumn consultation on how it might go forward. Watch for Future of London’s next  Energy Efficiency seminar, a targeted discussion on the potential for “ECO 2”…

Speakers included:

▪    Andrew Benfield, Energy Saving Trust

▪    Larissa Bulla, Greater London Authority

▪    Peter Feehan and Rebecca Aspinwall, Pinsent Masons

▪    Damian Hemmings, LB Merton, with Kevin Godding, Sustainable Merton

▪    Antonio Irranca, Vibrant Energy Matters (ex CLG Energy Efficiency head)

▪    Nigel Turner, London Warm Zone, EDF Energy

Slides from the presenters are available below.


PODCAST: Retrofit Roundup Presentations and Q&A