The Retrofit Roadshow hits the road

NWRFRA community and whole house approach emerges as key themes of North West conference

The first in a series of 12 Retrofit Roadshows exploring the regional challenges and solutions for low carbon retrofits took place in Liverpool yesterday. Over 120 delegates from local authorities, registered providers, asset managers and the supply chain took part in the daylong conference opened by Councillor Tim Moore, Cabinet Member for Transport and Climate Change at Liverpool City Council.

In order to meet Government targets, 14 million homes need to be eco refurbished across the UK by 2050. In the North West alone this equates to retrofitting around 4,000 homes per week in order to meet this target! The low carbon economy in the region is estimated to be worth £11.8bn – and 1,250 jobs could be created. All of which means retrofit is an important market.

Paul Hegarty, Local Delivery Manager from the Energy Saving Trust outlined the retrofit challenge for the North West. From EST’s experiences a one size does not fit all and a ‘whole house’ strategy should be adopted. Paul urged key players in the region to learn from the experiences of ERDF; develop strategic plans and partnerships; work with the local supply chain; be prepared to move quickly and at scale and take advantage of the Green Deal and ECO to fund a whole house approach.

Already a number of initiatives have emerged in the North West to deliver low carbon refurbishments in the region including AGMA’ Green Deal Programme and Project Viridis.  Local authorities and Registered Providers are already working together, forming formal partnerships and undergoing joint investment to deliver retrofits across the region with the help of the Liverpool City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and energy suppliers. These pioneering initiatives and their plans for the future were highlighted during the Roadshow. Over a period of 3 years and with a budget of £87m, Project Viridis is aiming to install at least 3 measures in 100,000 homes. AGMA are aiming to retrofit 60,000 houses over 3 years, spending over £100m on housing stock improvements and creating 1000+ jobs. Their Green Deal Framework has gone to tender and the final three will be announced in January 2014.  

The rest of the morning then focused on understanding the demand side; Dr Will Swan from Salford University, Charlie Baker from Urbed and Colin Lafferty from the Helena Partnership ran a workshop exploring what will influence householders to start to invest in retrofit. Elements such as access to proven expertise; trust and accountability; a conduit to expertise; support throughout the process; choosing the right solutions and touch points; a tailored package of measures; and neighbourhood coordination were all deemed essential in order to drive consumer change on a grand scale.

NW_IMAGE_2On the non-domestic side, the business case for retrofits was discussed at length during a panel session with Chris Foran from Peel Holdings and Tim Heatley from Capital & Centric plc. Simon Mansfield from Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service also outlined the ins and outs of retrofits following their £480,000 overhaul of their fire stations which has saved them £117,000 in energy and 23% of CO2 emissions per year.

At Peel Holdings the CRC has really focussed their minds and they now haveenergy audits and an energy opportunities database in place across the portfolio.  Currently they are looking for ‘low investment’ opportunities – anything with less than 2 year payback.  However, they know they are going to have to look at a bigger investment if they are to bring properties up to 2018 standards (when landlords will not be able to let F or G  rated properties) and consequently are starting to re-evaluate the whole portfolio.

Tim Heatley outlined how they have used the Business Premises Renovation Allowance in their retrofits – a tax break to bring derelict buildings back into use.  He believes that 1960s and 1970s buildings will be the “redbrick buildings of the future” that we want to save and cherish. As you only have to apply only old Building Regulations to these buildings, there’s more leeway to be innovative, to “be a bit whacky and stand out from the crowd”.  A cleverly retrofitted building can be a more interesting place to work in than a new build.

BREEAM was also highlighted as a key driver for non-domestic retrofit, with both Peel Holdings and Central & Centric plc aiming for BREEAM Very Good in their renovation projects. Interestingly, neither Peel Holdings nor Capital & Centric plc are going for the Green Deal as they consider there is still too much confusion between the tenant and landlord.

The afternoon then examined how customer-barriers can be overcome in order to drive large scale retrofit across the region. Rickaby Thompson Associates, British Gas Business Services and the Liverpool Housing Trust looked at de-risking retrofit, making funding frameworks work and delivering at scale. Hill Dickinson LLP, National Energy Foundation and Marksman Consulting looked at compliance, finance and the technical solutions for non-domestic properties.

Robust appraisal, energy modelling, planning, strategic alliances, good design and specification, funding and procurement, delivery synergy, and consultation were all cited as crucial for retrofitting at scale. The employment of a retrofit coordinator that is trained and certified by CoRE and has an overarching coordination role covering assessment, design and specification, installation, quality assurance and customer care was recommended by Rickaby Thompson Associates as the best way to de-risk retrofit.  

Steph Ramsden from British Gas outlined the options for funding large scale retrofit namely ECO, Green Deal, housing association capital works programmes, local authority match, European grant funding, private home owner contributions, DECC funding, FITS, RHI and RHPP. Using their Stockport Homes project, she illustrated how improvements worth over £20m were delivered to over 1600 homes using Community Energy Savings Programme (CESP) and Stockport Homes match funding. As well as reducing bills by 40%, they boosted the local economy, trained the supply chain, engaged local communities, left a community legacy and developed a comprehensive renewable energy toolkit that others can follow.

In the non-domestic workshop, Bill Chandler from Hill Dickinson LLP explained how retrofits can help with compliance. Environmental legislation is a business and reputational risk: asset values of F and G rated premises are likely to fall significantly in the run up to 2018 yet many businesses are still unaware that the changes are coming. Retrofitting will also help you reduce your energy and CRC bills and it’s a good PR opportunity if you act early!

Malcolm Hanna from NEF looked at how to close the performance gap in non-domestic retrofit which can be as much as a five-fold difference between designed and actual energy use .  Commissioning is key, as is evaluation of performance.  Each step in the retrofit process – specification, design, procurement, commissioning, testing, in-use -  can affect the others and so a holistic approach and common language are required. 

There was much interest in Christoph Harwood’s presentation on the commercial Green Deal, which in the non-domestic sector appeals to reducing business costs.   Low default rates on electricity bills also makes it an attractive proposition for financiers.  The Green Deal can help businesses achieve regulatory compliance at zero cost in face of the 2018 regulations. Local authorities also have a key role to play – they can champion the Green Deal locally; as property owners of commercial lets they can give landlord consent for retrofits; their Development Directorates can help to blend Green Deal funding with EU and other funding; and they could also invest in the Green Deal fund themselves, demonstrating their commitment, making themselves an investment return and helping to make sure the Green Deal fund comes in at a sensible interest rate.

Christoph would also like to see three improvements to the commercial Green Deal namely:  to include RHI/FITS in the Golden Rule; allow the Golden Rule to be overridden if the bill payer wants a quicker payback; and allow variable interest rates.

The conference concluded with a keynote address from Steve Lauri, from E.ON and the Liverpool City Region LEP, exploring to what extent retrofits can lift the North West out of recession and stimulate economic growth. He outlined the funding available and industry drivers for retrofits namely energy costs savings, job creation, fuel poverty reduction, increased property values, GDP and investment plus areas that may need addressing such as funding support and training for SMEs in order to build a robust supply chain.  Steve also summarised the key themes that emerged from the day namely: the need for a local focus to support local residents and businesses; the importance of property data and skills; the risks of retrofitting; how the ECO door is open NOW; and how social housing can offer leadership in communities.

A panel discussion with Energy Project Plus, the FMB and British Gas Business Services ensued. The general consensus was that people are at the heart of this – we need to generate demand, information needs to be easy to access and credible, and we must adopt a whole house approach as one size does not fit all. We have to be sensitive to householder needs and affordability. Consequently retrofit lends itself to a community approach. It is about giving people pride in their communities – “social regeneration” – taking disengaged, vulnerable and sometimes frightened people on a journey. Therefore stewardship by local partners is key and regions should look at collective deals within communities and benefit from collective bargaining/purchasing power.  The real challenge is to bring it all right down to the local level.  This takes an investment of time and shouldn’t be rushed by ECO and other funding demands.

The day ended with the following sentiment from Christoph – “we are on the side of the righteous!”

11 more Retrofit Roadshows will be taking place from now until December 2013. Make sure you don’t miss out and book your ticket now by visiting www.retrofit-roadshow.co.uk/book or call 01743 290001. 


 

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