All the buses come at once. Findings published by DECC following a survey of social landlords contain interesting, if not entirely unsurprising insights into their experiences as we gear up for another round of changes to RHI. The full report is here but here are some key findings:
Up to 20 per cent could be knocked off the price of ground source and air source heat pumps if they became a truly ‘mass market’, according to new research commissioned by DECC – and backed up by increased support for the technology under RHI.
The uncertainty surrounding moves to retain the exemption of energy saving products including solar from standard VAT appears to have been lifted. Following an EU ruling last year that the reduced rate of 5% is in breach of the EU VAT Directive, the Government launched a consultation in January on how it planned to amend the relevant legislation; however, there was no decision announced in the Budget 2016. Subsequently, Conservative Eurosceptics joined forces with Labour to oppose any rise. Now an amendment to the Finance Bill has been accepted which prevents any rise to VAT on insulation, solar panels, wind turbines and energy saving devices – so we can breathe a sigh of relief.
Now with FIT payments significantly reduced and proposals to remove solar thermal it could be said that we are in the worst of both worlds.
What will the next 6 months hold? We could be out of Europe with a new prime minister by time the clocks are next re-set. But, in or out, many in the sector are keen that we push ahead with meeting the goal that may or may not be legally binding on the UK, that for ‘nearly zero’ energy buildings from the end of 2020. That’s because with the renewed focus on new build we need to start thinking now about how we better homes more affordably.
There is a new offer we thought might be of use; we are liaising with a large solar fund that is interested in buying back residential solar PV units. It could be quite an interesting offer for some organisations. By acquiring your portfolio (or part of it) the solar company will own the system and the FIT income but you will receive a cash lump sum up front. This may be of use for associations that are interested in funds now or want investment for other PV, energy efficiency or other works. The offer includes:
The UK Government Construction strategy has two challenging targets for 2025. These include an expectation of 1.7- 2.5 million new homes and 50% less carbon by 2025. The UK’s 26 million existing homes also need to change. The Climate Change Act targets require homes to be improved to emit 90% less carbon by 2050. So each home built to higher standards helps towards that goal and also, of course, helps with comfort and lower bills for residents.
Excess humidity, damp and mould growth is present in almost half of UK homes, with severe cases affecting over 598,000 properties. A significant majority of these belong to social housing providers for whom this is a long standing problem, and the costs are substantial.
Back in December 2014, 75 housebuilders, social landlords, architects and others representing 208,047 homes in the UK participated in our survey, produced with the Zero Carbon Hub, on overheating in homes. The survey asked participants to describe, for example, how they define and assess overheating risk in residential properties. It also asked those responding to say what was motivating them to take action. Customer satisfaction came high on the list. Other incentives included having had overheating problems in the past, and the presence of local authority requirements in Local Plans.
At Sustainable Homes we know that the recent heat metering regulations have concentrated effort on installing meters in heat networks. This is good for residents, because they get charged only for what they use as opposed to a flat rate regardless of what they use. It’s also good for the environment because, when heat meters are installed the heat usage is generally more efficient and so results in fewer carbon emissions.
Using Passivhaus design principles for new build homes and refurbishment can dramatically reduce carbon emissions, cut residents’ fuel bills and improve general health and wellbeing. But what are Passivhaus principles? What’s involved? What are the costs? What are the benefits to the landlord? Sustainable Homes has been alerted to a resource that may help with getting these questions answered. What’s especially useful is that the resources is free and comes in CPD format, so will be useful to building professionals.
In the world of social housing, ‘technology’ and ‘innovation’ are too often only associated with things like data management and customer interfaces – in other words, Information Technology. But there is a world of possibility out there. Tom Jarman of your Homes Newcastle, and John Stapleton of Sustainable Homes, identified four areas where social landlords could consider it differently.
SHIFT landlords often ask us about how they can better engage staff and residents on sustainability issues. Planning your internal or resident engagement around worldwide movements is a great way to create a buzz and gain interest. Utilise these events to encourage your colleagues and residents to take action and increase buy-in into your organisation’s sustainability agenda.