Memorandum submitted by Groundwork UK (FP 27)

 

 

Summary

 

With a quarter of all carbon emissions generated by our homes and with more than 4 million people facing fuel poverty, co-ordinated action is needed to ensure everyone has a warm, insulated home and to encourage people to reduce their domestic carbon emissions.

 

The government's current reliance on market incentives and energy providers to achieve these reductions will not achieve legally binding targets. We also need more effort to ensure our homes and communities are protected against the unavoidable impacts of a changing climate.

 

Our evidence focuses on the following:

 

There is an urgent need for a government-led national programme of retro-fitting houses to reduce emissions and create housing that will be resilient to climate change, bringing third sector providers together with the insulation industry and the energy companies to ensure maximum take-up.

 

Community based, intermediary organisations are best placed to reach fuel poor households. Delivery through community-based partnerships would be particularly effective in increasing access to priority groups.

 

Technical measures and advice must be combined with community development expertise, and a focus on education and changing behaviours. (As provided by our Green Doctor service - see case study below). Particular attention needs to be paid to the needs of consumers who are vulnerable and who have special needs.

 

Energy efficiency solutions need to be offered together with referrals to other local support services in order to effectively tackle fuel poverty (e.g., advice on benefits and debt relief), as also provided by our Green Doctor service.

 

As unemployment is a major contributor to fuel poverty, delivery should be linked to job creation initiatives. This should include the Department for Work and Pensions' employment provision, for example the new Future Jobs Fund and the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills future skills strategies.

 

 

1. Introduction

 

The Groundwork Federation is a group of charities supporting communities in need. We work with partners to help improve the quality of people's lives, their prospects and potential and the places where they live, work and play.

 

Our vision is of a society of sustainable communities which are vibrant, healthy and safe, which respect the local and global environment and where individuals and enterprise prosper.

 

We operate across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and work on thousands of individual projects each year. Our Trusts work in over 90% of the most deprived communities in England and Wales, and we deliver a range of home energy efficiency programmes and projects with the aim of tackling both carbon emissions and fuel poverty.

 

 

2. The coherence of the Government's initiatives on energy efficiency

 

2.1 Existing and hard to treat homes.

There a gap between government aims on energy efficiency, carbon emissions reduction and adaptation to climate change, and current plans for delivery. There is therefore an urgent need for a government-led national programme of retro-fitting houses to reduce emissions and create housing that will be resilient to climate change, bringing third sector providers together with the insulation industry and the energy companies to ensure maximum take-up.

 

2.2 Groundwork supports government ambitions for all lofts and cavity walls to be

insulated where practical by 2015 and for all homes and other buildings to have received a whole house package by 2030. (Heat and Energy Saving Strategy). However, in light of this target, the aim for only 7 million homes to have had the opportunity to take up a 'whole-house' package of measures by 2020 is not sufficiently ambitious.

 

2.3 It will be important that specific provision is made for hard to treat homes. 50% of individuals in fuel poverty live in hard to treat properties (Preston et al 2008)[1]. According to the Energy Efficiency Partnership for Homes, more than 7 million dwellings cannot have their energy efficiency improved through cavity wall insulation, efficient gas boilers or a combination of these. In addition, the number of cavity wall dwellings which will still need wall insulation is over 7 million. Delivery through area-based schemes which can benefit from economies of scale, in addition to the targeting of low income groups, is therefore needed.

 

2.4 We also support the Sustainable Development Commission recommendations on existing housing[2], in particular that a standard for sustainable existing homes is needed, and that VAT on refurbishment and new build should be equalised.

 

2.5 There is also a need to adapt homes and neighbourhoods for climate change in order to reduce energy consumption for cooling. Deprived urban areas are more likely to be vulnerable to the impacts of the 'urban heat island' effect. This is due to lower levels of tree cover and other green infrastructure, combined with higher concentrations of air pollution and a greater prevalence of people with heart and respiratory disease. For example in the heat wave of 2003 there were 2,000 excess deaths in the UK (35,000 deaths across Europe), with the hot weather producing an increase in the number of days of higher air pollution. Events such as this are likely to become a normal occurrence by the 2040s. These weather conditions will be considered cool by the 2060s. Deprived communities in urban areas are likely to experience rising levels of fuel poverty. Poorer residents often live in older houses which are harder to cool in summer as well as being harder to heat in winter.

 

2.6 Green infrastructure networks have an increasingly important role to play in the management of urban temperatures. Research by the University of Manchester on 'Adaptation Strategies in the Urban Environment' (ASCCUE)[3] suggests that adding 10% green cover to built-up urban areas could keep maximum surface temperatures at a 1961-1990 level up until the 2080s. We want to see an expansion of these important networks and urge government to commit to increasing green space, tree cover and green roofs across the UK.

 

2.7 The need for a community-based partnership approach.

Community based, intermediary organisations are best placed to reach fuel poor households. Groundwork has extensive experience of delivering home energy efficiency projects in disadvantaged areas (see case studies below). This tells us that technical advice must be combined with community development expertise. Particular attention needs to be paid to the needs of consumers who are vulnerable and who have special needs. Equal opportunities and diversity issues also need to be addressed. An enabling, capacity building approach is essential to support local residents in decision-making about initiatives in their area, and to ensure that the programme has maximum benefit and long-term impact.

 

2.8 However, although the Government has stated its preference for the Community

Energy Saving Programme (CESP) to be delivered through community-based partnerships (see DECC/CLG CESP Consultation Response and Analysis[4]), this is not a requirement and there is no reference to this in Ofgem's Guidance. There is a danger that in practice there will be a failure to realise the benefits of community partnership working that the government wishes to see.

 

2.9 Energy efficiency solutions also need to be offered together with referrals to other

local support services in order to effectively tackle fuel poverty (e.g., advice on benefits and debt relief). Groundwork's 'Green Doctors' (see case study) provide links to other agencies and services available to low income households, both energy and non-energy related.

 

2.10 Groundwork Trusts are currently working with community groups in several areas to enable them to engage with the CESP process and shape the delivery of CESP in their neighbourhoods. They are also seeking to help co-ordinate the delivery of CESP with existing initiatives to achieve joined-up solutions to the problems that disadvantaged communities face.

 

2.11 Groundwork's 'Green Doctors' visit homes in deprived wards to install energy efficient measures free of charge and give residents advice on saving energy and reducing fuel bills.

 

Householders targeted by fuel poverty projects are difficult to reach, and persistent attempts to eradicate fuel poverty have had relatively low impacts. Green Doctors help overcome this by addressing educational and behavioural aspects as well as technological solutions. Investing the time to talk to people in their own home means they can provide tailored advice, and 'trouble shoot' problems such as a lack of understanding about how to control heating systems, or fitting low energy light bulbs for elderly residents who might not be able to do this themselves.

 

Green Doctors also serve as a referral point for other agencies and services available to low income households, both energy and non-energy related.

 

The Green Doctor programme began in Leicester where it has proved extremely popular, and saved householders nearly 10,000 in fuel bill savings in just 3 years. It has been calculated that if this programme were to be rolled out across the whole of the UK, this approach could achieve a 13% reduction in household CO2 emissions.

 

 

2.12 Job Creation

Links should also be made to other government departments' activity to support the creation of 'green jobs'. This should include the Department for Work and Pensions' employment provision, for example the new Future Jobs Fund and the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills future skills strategies. One of the key aims of the UK Low Carbon Transition Plan is the creation of green jobs. [5] The Local Government Association report 'Creating green jobs: Developing local low-carbon economies', estimates that 20,000 new jobs could be created in home energy efficiency.

 

2.14 The CESP is being delivered in areas of high worklessness and therefore creates a unique opportunity for joined-up working. Worklessness itself is a major contributor to fuel poverty. Suppliers and generators should be encouraged to achieve local spend as much as possible in order to create a local multiplier effect. There are a number of successful examples of energy efficiency schemes favouring local employment while complying with procurement rules. This can create a win-win situation for communities benefiting from CESP. The CESP could also stimulate market demand for home energy efficiency products and services, but there may not be sufficient capacity to meet a significant upturn. Government intervention will therefore be required to support the development of a skill base in these areas.

 

2.15 Tackling worklessness is one of our main areas of activity, and we have recently been awarded substantial funding from the DWP's Future Jobs Fund to create training and job opportunities. [6] In many proposed CESP delivery areas, Groundwork Trusts will be supporting local unemployed people who could be trained for such tasks as surveying, installing installation (loft, cavity wall, solid wall), draughtproofing, and small scale renewables such as solar hot water. Further opportunities will exist for home energy advice through Green Doctor type schemes. Aligning Future Jobs Funding with CESP funding in this way would represent excellent value for money.

 

2.16 Groundwork Creswell's 'Safe and Warm' programme has helped over 2,000 households in need by installing insulation and energy saving measures, and provided long term unemployed individuals with the opportunity to gain new skills in the field of construction. Work has involved loft insulation, cavity wall insulation, pipe lagging and tank jackets, draught proofing and the installation of energy saving measures such as dusk-while-dawn lights.

 

2.17 Groundwork Creswell have also created 'the Greenhouse Initiative' which restores vacant property ensuring that the houses use a wide range of energy saving devices and renewable energy measures. The improvements, which include insulation, solar hot water and a rain harvesting system, far exceed current building regulations. They also tackle fuel poverty by lowering heating bills. The initiative not only ensures more sustainable homes, it also provides work for local people. The work to re-design and rebuild properties provides long term unemployed people with the skills and experience needed to re-enter the workplace.

 

 

 

3. The methods used to target assistance at households which need it most
 
3.1 The need to focus on 'hard to treat' homes.
We support the focus of the CESP and the proposed CERT extension on areas of disadvantage, families in fuel poverty and hard-to-treat homes. However, whilst these have concentrated on those areas with the highest levels of income deprivation, there should also be a focus on areas with high levels of solid wall housing.
 
The CESP scoring system needs to be sufficiently weighted to encourage deliverers to adopt a whole house approach from the outset, so that there are sufficient incentives to tackle hard-to-treat homes. Groundwork is also concerned that charging may present a barrier to resident take up of the measures offered through CESP.
 
It should also be noted that private landlords may try and increase rents following the installation of measures to improve energy efficiency, which could counteract the programme benefits in terms of tackling fuel poverty.
 
3.2 The importance of independent energy advice and support for householders to achieve longer term behavioural change.
A recent Ipsos MORI survey commissioned by Groundwork, which asked 1,009 people in Great Britain about energy efficiency in their homes, found that people want help and advice to encourage them to install energy saving measures in their homes, but would not select energy companies to provide this service:
 
nearly half (48%) would be more likely to install energy saving devices in their homes if they were offered some practical help and advice.
 
only 13% of those without cavity wall insulation and 8% without loft insulation would choose a contractor provided by an energy company.

 

Despite the fact energy companies offer subsidies, they are still not a popular choice, perhaps because they are perceived as having a vested interest in customer's energy use. Advisors from community-based organisations may be more trusted, and better able to combat fuel poverty by connecting people with other local services.

 

3.3 Groundwork would like to see government energy efficiency initiatives have a much stronger emphasis on longer-term behavioural change. Technical measures alone are not sufficient to achieve this. They must be supported by effective communication, and a focus on meeting individual needs. This approach has been successfully demonstrated by Groundwork's Green Doctor programme (see case study above). A network of independent energy advisers, experienced at working with communities, could help facilitate a mass take-up of energy saving measures.

 

3.4 Home energy audits are likely to be most useful when they provide a comprehensive service: conducting the audit, and signposting accredited implementation services and funding assistance where applicable. To achieve maximum impact, there should also be follow-up support available, eg to ensure that once energy saving devices have been installed they are used correctly. It is essential that all home energy audits are delivered by trained and accredited personnel. It is important that minimum standards are agreed, but there should be a range of routes to achieving these minimum standards and also the opportunity to achieve enhanced standards. To be fully effective, home energy audits will need to be delivered by personnel with strong community development skills in addition to technical skills.

 

February 2010



[1] See 'Opportunities to Improve Hard to Treat Homes within CERT', Energy Efficiency Partnership for Homes. http://www.sd-commission.org.uk/pages/existing-homes.html

[2] http://www.sd-commission.org.uk/pages/existing-homes.html

[3] Gill, S.E., Handley, J.F., Ennos, A.R and Pauleit, S. (2007) Adapting Cities for Climate Change: the role of the green infrastructure.

[4]http://www.decc.gov.uk/Media/viewfile.ashx?FilePath=Consultations\CESP\1_20090710114123_e_@@_CESPGovtresponseJuly09.pdf&filetype=4

[5] http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/publications/lc_trans_plan/lc_trans_plan.aspx

[6] http://www.groundwork.org.uk/news/detail/index.asp?id=129