West Midlands MEP advocates the ‘Green Deal’ for social housing

phillip bennion2In a newsletter this week (not yet available on his website) Local Euro MP Phil Bennion expresses the hope that the government’s ‘Green Deal’ will be more widely extended to help people in rented social housing:

“Millions of homes in the UK do not have full double-glazing. More than half do not have enough insulation or an efficient condensing boiler. Most do not even have proper thermostats. The Green Deal will make a difference . . . The next step is to help tenants in social housing cut their bills too, using a similar approach”.

green deal defra logoPhil Bennion pointed out that not only could tenants facing growing fuel poverty be made more comfortable and enabled to cut their bills, but that there would be increased employment opportunities for those carrying out energy efficiency upgrades. He continued:

“In the European Parliament’s Employment committee, I’m working on a report on the financial pressure facing tenants in social housing. The big worry is fuel poverty, with soaring energy bills squeezing budgets for food and other basic essentials.

“Rolling out the Green Deal approach to social housing would be tricky, but it would help tackle fuel poverty where the need is greatest. In the West Midlands, many housing associations are already making the most of similar schemes (Ed. see Tipton and Walsall).

“I want to see the EU keep up the pressure so governments and local authorities are given the tools to help tenants in social housing to cut their bills too. The process needs to be as practical and accessible as possible.”

*

encraft logoOn the website of Encraft, the environmental engineering firm which prepared a full feasibility study for the city, working in partnership with Localise West Midlands, we read that the eventual aim of Birmingham’s Green Deal project is to retrofit over 14,000 private homes, small businesses and social housing units across Birmingham with the full range of energy efficiency and microgeneration technologies.

birmingham energy savers3An LWM consultant hopes that Birmingham Energy Savers* will indeed be given ‘the tools’ it needs to engage social housing providers with the Green Deal and to make it financially viable for them to improve their housing stock and reduce fuel poverty.

 

* website currently ‘under development’

 

 

 

 

 

 

Solving fuel poverty – an update

 

Chart 4.3 in a 2011 DECC report showed that the West Midlands had highest rate of fuel poverty with around 26% of households requiring to spend more than 10% of their income on fuel to maintain an adequate level of warmth. A Chamberlain Forum article confirms that this position has been maintained, with a slight percentage decrease.

 Department for Energy and Climate Change’s 2011 report

LWM’s ‘all time’ top individual post was in the website’s Activities section. Solving fuel poverty: opportunities from Green Deal and localisation was published in December two years ago and, because of the interest shown, Phil Beardmore sent the following update about action on fuel poverty:

Although there has been some limited progress in tackling fuel poverty in the last twelve months, this has been largely wiped out by the rising cost of fuel and the reduction in incomes for the poorest people.  A welcome development has been the availability of ECO (Energy Company Obligation) funding at up to 100% for vulnerable households – those low-income households with children, and/or frail, elderly, disabled members.

Although a brokerage system is being developed by DECC which will give new players such as the Energy Saving Coop access to ECO for local schemes, by and large ECO is controlled by the Big Six and it is likely that they will continue to cherry-pick where and when it is spent.

One of the factors affecting cherry-picking is the ease, or otherwise, with which it is possible to get planning permission for external solid wall insulation.  We note that whereas there has been widespread delivery of this measure in Wolverhampton and Stoke, including on more attractive pre-1919 properties in areas such as All Saints in Wolverhampton, it has been patchy in Birmingham.  While there has been widespread use of external wall insulation on less attractive inter-war properties in areas such as Bordesley Green and Northfield, it has proved more difficult to get planning permission in areas such as Handsworth and Sparkbrook, where there are more attractive facades like the one on my house.  We know of one insulation scheme which has under-delivered due to uncertainties over the length of time to get planning permission, if it is granted at all.  It seems that Planning Officers and utility companies have both dug in over their respective positions.

There are two sides to every story and this is no exception.  Some utility companies have made no secret of the fact that they prefer to invest in energy saving measures in cities and countries that colloborate with them; local authority officers understandably point to the statutory constraints under which they operate.  Birmingham City Council has expressed a very general support for sustainable development in the Birmingham Development Plan.  This now needs to turn into action, moving away from the current presumption that ambitious carbon reduction targets will reduce property values and undermine economic growth in the city, a view that is a legacy of some sections of the previous administration.  This means working with the energy efficiency industry, rather than against it, to deliver solutions to issues such as solid wall insulation and solar panels that enable us to have buildings fit for the 21st century while conserving our built heritage.

The Green Commission, of which I am a member, faces an urgent task in holding senior officers to account in implementing Sir Albert Bore’s expressed wish for Birmingham to be one of the greenest cities in the world.  No longer can Birmingham issue declarations and strategies which are ignored at Director level, making it impossible to implement them.

It seems that Birmingham Energy Savers will be largely focussed on ECO funding, along with short-lived early adopter cash from DECC, for the near future, and that this will lead to significant energy efficiency improvements for many thousands of the poorest homes in Birmingham.

Carillion Energy Services, who have won the Birmingham Energy Savers contract, are also being true to their word so far in enabling local small businesses and the third sector to be part of its delivery.  In this respect, we can cautiously say that Birmingham Energy Savers is showing great promise so far.

What isn’t clear is the degree to which Green Deal – i.e. where measures that cannot be grant-funded are paid for through a pay-as-you-save approach – will take off in Birmingham or elsewhere, and it may be that the current DECC consultation on Electricity Demand Reduction contains proposals which will work better than Green Deal, for the better-off at least, and ultimately succeed it.

Meanwhile the Energy Saving Coop and community development financial institutions such as the Robert Owen Community Bank seem to be most advanced in finding fair and ethical alternatives.

Tackling fuel poverty isn’t just about energy efficiency measures – it is now more than a decade since LWM associate Pat Conaty in a report for NEF/OFGEM pointed out that fuel poverty had multiple causes and needed multiple solutions – energy saving measures; energy advice; income maximisation; bill payment facilities – a Factor Four approach.  There is a will to implement this approach but the funding streams don’t work together.  ECO will fund measures but not currently advice (although we are assured by DECC that it could); people can fund income maximisation measures through the Warm Homes, Healthy Communities fund but this is discretionary and time-limited; collective energy switching schemes will be launched in a number of locations early in the New Year, and some, but not all of these, will be tailored to the fuel poor as I advocated some months ago.

There are many wilful, determined individuals out there, in the private sector and the public sector as well as the third sector, trying to make a difference to fuel poverty.  These initiatives help a great many people but when the Chancellor announces in the Autumn Statement that we are going to become more reliant on ever more expensive and dangerous fossil fuels, then the cost of energy is going to rise more drastically, and energy efficiency will become even more important than ever. 

Birmingham Council: reducing fuel poverty and making the city cleaner and greener

News of further progress on the Green Deal front.  

In October the Construction Enquirer reported that Carillion Energy Services had been confirmed as preferred bidder by Birmingham City Council on a £600m retrofitting deal to improve energy efficiency for 60,000 homes.

The Birmingham Energy Savers scheme will see Carillion install energy efficiency measures like insulation and new boilers by 2020 in homes, schools and other council properties under this eight-year deal.

Under the Green Deal scheme, payment for improvements will be recovered in instalments through lower energy bills.

Carillion’s Chief Executive Richard Howson said: “Birmingham Energy Savers is a genuinely ground-breaking contract and we are delighted to be named as Birmingham City Council’s preferred delivery partner.

Energy minister Greg Barker’s comment: “Birmingham City Council is really taking the lead in reducing fuel poverty and making Birmingham cleaner and greener. The Green Deal will be a vital tool in helping the City reach its ambitious targets, allowing people to get energy efficient upgrades to their home and save money in the process. The funding we have given Birmingham will help kick-start the Green Deal and I’m excited by the Council’s plans to transform buildings and save energy.”

Dave Allport, Programme Manager for Birmingham Energy Savers, has now announced that on November 27th a ‘truly ground breaking’ contract between Birmingham City Council and Carillion Energy Services (CES) Ltd was signed, adding:

“This is a significant milestone in growing the green economy in Birmingham, tackling fuel poverty and reducing CO2 emissions”.

He thanked all those involved in developing bid documents, evaluating responses, engaging in dialogue, arranging stakeholder events, scoring submissions . . . adding the words of a senior legal partner:

“I’ve been involved in the procurement and development of over 80 public private partnership, but have never witnessed such a successful focus on building social values into the contract and a commitment from both parties to creating real local benefits”.

 

 

Meet the Bidder Event – Community Groups & Community Service Organisations – 3rd May

We wanted to promote the event below which sounds like a good opportunity for community based organisations to see what the Birmingham Energy Savers opportunities could be. We are NOT involved in organising it, but the text of this letter does not seem available elsewhere on the internet, so we thought posting it here would enable us to promote through social media.

Good Afternoon

Please find attached your invitation to an event for community groups and community services/support organisations.

We should be grateful if you would also circulate the attached Birmingham Energy Savers invitation to your networks and contacts on our behalf.

The closing date for responses is Thursday 26th April 2012, so we would appreaciate your timely support with its distribution.

Thank you for assisting us with this matter.

Kind Regards
Birmingham Energy Savers

April 2012

[logos]

Dear Colleague

Re: Birmingham Energy Savers, Aim High and Green Deal Meet the Bidder Event

Community Groups and Community Service Organisations

Birmingham Energy Savers is an award winning programme within Birmingham City Council which has so far fitted photovoltaic panels to the roofs of over 1,000 properties in order to reduce fuel poverty and carbon dioxide emissions.  Its main purpose however, is to establish the Birmingham Energy Savers Green Deal programme.  The Green Deal is a government led initiative which will enable households and businesses to install packages of energy saving technologies at no upfront cost; making properties more efficient, with repayments made over time from reduced energy bills.

From the 90 organisations that expressed an initial interest in the scheme, four bidders are about to enter the next stage of the procurement and develop their detailed proposals with the City Council.  These bidders are:

  • Carillion Energy Services
  • E.ON Energy Solutions Limited & Amey community Limited (consortium)
  • RWE npower Plc & Enterprise Management Services Limited (consortium)
  • SSE Energy Solutions & Mark Group Limited (consortium).

We would like to invite you to an event at The Council House [Banqueting Suite] Victoria Square, Birmingham, B1 1BB on Thursday 3rd May 2012 13:00 – 16:00 to meet the bidders, and for them to meet you.

We very much hope you or a colleague are able to attend.  We ask that organisations limit themselves to one delegate.

To secure a place, please send an email confirming you wish to attend to energysavers@birmingham.gov.uk by Thursday 26th April 2012.

Yours Faithfully

Birmingham Energy Savers Team

Energysaving Co-op launch, Weds 21st Sept 7pm

Just a last minute promotion for the launch of the new Energysaving Co-op. Please let John know if you are planning to attend!

Midlands Co-operative Society Member Relations and Localise West Midlands would like to introduce: The UK’s most exciting new Co-op –  The energy saving co-operative

Energysaving co-op logoThe energy saving co-operative provides households and communities with a Fair Green Deal

  • helping them share the benefits from the government Green Deal, RHI and FiT schemes
  • Providing a one-stop energy saving service
  • Reducing/eliminating the up-front costs of energy saving

It will launch from autumn 2012 – before then, it is piloting and lobbying for a fairer Green Deal for all

Now, The energy saving co-operative wants to meet:

  • Community groups looking to save energy in their communities
  • Local businesses wanting to help deliver energy-saving improvements, or establish worker co-ops to do so

Member Relations  wants to invite you to an evening with the Co-op! Refreshments, co-operative; locally produced; Fairtrade.

When: 7 for 7:30 pm, Wednesday 21 September

Where: Member Relations Centre B.M.I. Margaret Street, Birmingham  B3 3BS Contact: John Boyle, 0121 233 1545,

john.boyle@midlandsco-op.com