The new government has been relatively quiet on fuel poverty and energy efficiency. The Green Housing Forum, in partnership with Daikin UK, will explore the latest policies and thinking in this key area. Here two experts, who will be featuring at the Green Housing Forum at Homes, answer some burning questions.
Q: What is different about the approach being taken by the new government to energy and sustainability?
A: David Weatherall, policy adviser, Energy Saving Trust: ‘We already have, in our view, a good strategy to tackle fuel poverty in terms of the commitment to get all fuel-poor homes to Energy Performance Certificate level ‘C’ by 2020. Also at the end of June the government accepted the recommendations of the Committee on Climate Change for the fifth carbon budget taking us towards the target of reducing UK carbon emissions by 80 per cent of 1990 levels by 2050. The point is that action continues to reduce energy bills and tackle fuel poverty. We have the targets, what we need from Theresa May’s government is the roadmap to get there.’
Q: What sort of steps would you like to see the government taking?
A: Nancy Jonsson, Commerical Director – domestic heating and renewables, Daikin UK: ‘It is good news that the new Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has retained key units and individuals from the disbanded Department of Energy and Climate Control (DECC).
We are particularly interested in the role renewable energy sources such as domestic heat pumps continue to play within the UK’s approach to energy and sustainability. Recent research by consultancy Delta-ee has shown increasing awareness of heat pump technology and that the number of installed domestic renewable heat pumps in the UK could reach 27,000 by 2018, growing to 90,000 in 2025.'
DW: ‘We need a plan for ‘able-to-pay’ households. Now that the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) is focused entirely on fuel- poor households, this issue must be addressed. Also, the National Infrastructure Commission should be looking at energy efficiency as a national infrastructure priority. Finally, although the government-funded Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) programme is continuing, it is comparatively small-scale, with only around 50,000 homes a year benefitting. As a society we need to start looking at how to deliver real change in heating homes and reducing heat loss.
Q: What are the areas of opportunity for housing providers in energy efficiency now?
NJ: ‘The RHI is still a significant opportunity for social housing providers considering renewable technologies such as air source heat pumps. Providing regular funding for the technology, some social housing providers, such as Dumfries and Galloway Housing Partnership, are claiming £3 million per year, over a seven-year period.'
DW: ‘Social housing providers are in a strong position to take a lead on energy efficiency in their communities. We realise there is pressure on housing association budgets, but energy efficiency must be a priority. Although reductions in the Feed-in Tariff (FIT) for solar energy have meant many housing associations have put investment plans on hold, the existence of FIT has sparked a large amount of creative thinking – particularly at an aggregate community level – on how to continue to improve energy storage and therefore benefit from clean energy.’
Q: What are some of the key challenges housing providers must overcome in tackling fuel poverty?
NJ: ‘Correctly identifying fuelpoverty can be difficult, unless there are clear indicators such as rental arrears, damp within the property or the tenant mentions difficulty heating their property. The best method to overcome these barriers is to future-proof both existing and new-build properties with cost-effective heating solutions, such as renewable air source heat pumps.’
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