Retrofit North East - Newcastle - 5 September 2013


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The Retrofit Roadshow visits the North East

On the 5th September the Roadshow visited Newcastle. Many were hoping to get a sneak preview of Warm Up North prior to its official launch later in the month by the newly appointed delivery partner British Gas. The conference was well attended and jam packed with presentations, workshops and retrofit clinics with the morning focusing on understanding the demand side and the afternoon examining how we can deliver large scale retrofit across the region and overcome customer barriers.

NE11The conference opened with Lance Saxby from the Energy Saving Trust outlining the retrofit challenge for the region. EST estimates that 14 million UK homes need an ECO refurb, 0.6 million of these are in the North East. In order to meet Government targets, the region needs to retrofit 1,300 homes per week and to do this a flexible house approach will be required as a one size does not fit all.

According to Stuart Margerrison, Director of Community Energy at British Gas, the challenge for Warm Up North will be to convince people who haven’t been convinced by previous schemes. They want to make ECO money go as far as possible but they have to do it right. British Gas doesn’t have an army of people to bring in to the North East; rather they will be employing people directly and looking to work with local businesses for delivery. They will also be normalising prices across the region, so that people in rural households don’t face a price premium for works.

Four workshops then ensued - Rickaby Thompson Associates, NEA and TADEA talked about how to make domestic retrofit work at all levels. Verco, FSB, BSRIA, Northumbria University, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Evershed examined the business case and how to overcome the barriers for non-domestic retrofits.

Peter Rickaby looked at how to de risk retrofits during the 4 stages of retrofits (assessment, design, installation and operation) by using an expert retrofit manager with over-arching coordination role. Maria Wardrobe and Helen Stockton from NEA talked about how to tackle the hard to reach. Energy efficiency is the most practical & sustainable means of addressing fuel poverty, however at best the CSCO and HHCRO elements of ECO will only help 6.4% of fuel poor households. Most households have had at least one measure but there’s scope for more. The barriers to engagement include trust, situational, quality, eligibility, attitudinal and therefore tailored communication is required to suit the needs, motivations and desires of target households. NEA outlined 3 critical stages of engagement: awareness, access e.g. numeracy/literacy and then action. Their recommendation was to form partnerships with frontline organisations & social networks.

On the non-domestic side, the key drivers for retrofitting property portfolios were cited as being compliance, CRC, competition, BREEAM ratings, tenant satisfaction, rising energy prices. Duncan Price from Verco outlined how low carbon retrofit can improve your asset value, workplace productivity/health, risk mitigation and reduce operating costs. Verco has reviewed the performance of buildings with Display Energy Certificates to see how they changed over time and found that “good buildings get better; bad buildings get worse” – that is, buildings with an F or G rating one year tended to use more energy the following year, whereas buildings with an A, B or C rating used less.

NE10However, there can be many challenges to overcome eg complex ownership & leasing structures, project scale, apathy, ‘baselining’ performances, planning permission etc.  Solutions include optimising existing buildings, invest-to-save, commercial Green Deal, PV rent-a-roof. Key recommendations were to: first consider the strength of the business case, capital value of works delivered, existing facilities and banking relationships and then ensure the investment is structured to benefit from Energy-saving Enhanced Capital Allowance Scheme.

The highlight of the day was the workshop on the £200m Warm Up North (WUN) scheme with Newcastle City Council & British Gas.  Martin Walker from Newcastle City Council outlined the programme supported by 8 participating local authority partners, 20 register housing providers. WUN will take advantage of the Green Deal and ECO to retrofit 50,000 domestic properties and create 500 jobs. The initiative will be launched to the public later this month and supply chain events will follow.

Jon Kershaw, Head of WUN and Brian Watt, Technical and Commercial Support Manager from British outlined their delivery plans for WUN. British Gas has committed £30m per annum of ECO funding to WUN. They will employ 75 local people to work at British Gas and 300 installers through 50 SMEs recruited regionally via joint meet the buyer events with WUN and preferred suppliers. All SMEs interested in working with British Gas should register on the Warm Up North website.

 “We’ve got a contract, but it’s bigger than that – we’re on a journey.” commented John Litherland from the Association of North East Councils.

Paul Varley from the North East Local Enterprise Partnership ended the day with a presentation and panel debate on the wider ambitions of the region. The LEP is hoping to generate 60,000 bigger and better jobs and retrofit can play a role in this. He characterised the North East as ambitious, innovative, making a difference, on the map, integrated and offering strong value for money. Retrofit faces three immediate challenges:

1.    Investing in skills
2.    Ensuring supply chains are appropriately financed – there’s a duty of care on larger companies to support SMEs, for example, by paying them promptly or making sure they are appropriately capitalised
3.    Being ambitious in what can be achieved

To view the speaker programme, exhibitor profiles, testimonials and the photo gallery please follow the links at the top of this page ^^

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