The 1st of April was a small step forward for energy efficiency: tenants in private rented accommodation now have the right to request energy efficiency improvements according to the Private Rented Sector Tenants’ Energy Efficiency Improvements Provisions.
It is only a week before Londoners head to the polls to choose a successor to the incumbent Boris Johnson, stepping down from an office which enjoys considerable powers over housing, planning and energy. Each candidate has a different idea on how to resolve the shortage – but all have promised to build 200,000 homes by 2020 or 50,000 every year.
Catalyst is one of the leading housing associations in London and the South East. We are an award-winning developer and manage more than 22,000 homes for people on a range of incomes – from social, affordable and intermediate rented homes, to sheltered housing, shared ownership as well as homes for outright sale.
DECC have launched a ‘Health and Affordable Warmth Evaluation Toolkit’, developed with oversight by experts in the fields of health and evaluation from a number of organisations, including Department for Health, Public Health England and a range of front line delivery organisations.
One of the unexpected survivors of last year’s Spending Review was the Renewable Heat Incentive, which will now continue until at least 2021, albeit on a lower trajectory. Last month the Government released more detail on its plans to reform the RHI, in a bid to expand the rollout of a wider range of low-carbon technologies, and widen access to the scheme among smaller households.
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.