As the lead for zero carbon and sustainable regeneration within Equans, my primary responsibility is to spearhead the execution of our zero carbon and sustainable regeneration strategy. To date, we have secured more than £150 million of investment to help our customers tackle fuel poverty and install energy saving solutions to thousands of homes.
What methods is EQUANS using to support the energy efficiency of homes in the UK?
Local Authorities and housing providers have an essential role to play in support of the national drive for net zero – a large proportion of the UK’s carbon emissions come from the built environment and infrastructure that is within their boundaries and influence.
Within these boundaries exist concentrated and complex infrastructure & mobility systems involving multiple stakeholders, such as industry, the public sector, academia, and private individuals. This complexity means that when change is needed, especially on the scale required to achieve net zero, it is advisable to adopt an integrated systems approach.
It is this systems thinking approach and delivery that Equans can support with. We can help facilitate the flourishing of a place by better aligning actions and their consequences against the three main forms of value, i.e. environmental, social & economic. Equans also help councils and housing providers to bid for funding such as the Sustainable Warmth competition, the Energy Company Obligation (ECO), Green Homes Grant Vouchers, and the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund.
We can help deliver all forms of residential and commercial energy efficiency from a programme of targeted insulation through to whole house retrofit.
For instance, we have worked on a £9million project whole-house retrofit which has seen 190 flats in Leeds – 150 of which are council-owned – achieve an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) A rating – a level achieved by just 0.2% of homes in England.
Despite recent price rises, residents of the properties can expect their bills to be cut by up to 70% – saving them as much as £1,600 per year*.
The government has said 19m homes need better insulation. What should government, as well as the wider industry, do to support these repairs/upgrades?
To address this issue, the UK government has launched various schemes to improve the energy efficiency of social housing, including the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund.
It has also introduced regulations to improve the energy efficiency of social housing, whereby all new social housing from April 2020 must meet an EPC rating of at least Band A, and from April 2025, all existing social housing must meet a minimum EPC rating of Band C. These regulations will encourage social landlords to make energy efficiency improvements to their properties, reducing fuel poverty and carbon emissions.
To support the repairs and upgrades of homes, the government could provide provide incentives such as grants, tax breaks, or low-interest loans to homeowners and landlords. These incentives will encourage property owners to invest in energy-efficient improvements, such as insulation, which can be costly.
Additionally, the government should work with the wider industry, including builders, contractors, and insulation manufacturers, to promote the benefits of energy-efficient improvements and offer training programs to improve their skills in these areas.
From an industry perspective, we also must continue to attract new and diverse talent to ensure we have the skilled workforce to deliver these methods.
What incentives can help the industry support the delivery of energy efficient homes?
We must address the underlying economic model that perpetuates economic insecurity and unsustainable consumption patterns for people. This is a crucial moment to create new models for delivering essential services such as energy, heating, and transportation that prioritise social equity and environmental sustainability from the outset. This requires a concerted effort from all stakeholders, including policymakers, businesses, and civil society, to prioritise sustainability and justice in all aspects of decision-making. By taking these steps, we can build a more equitable and sustainable future for all.
What will the finical impact be to repair/upgrade those homes in need of better insulation?
Financially, the cost of repairing and upgrading homes for better insulation will depend on the size and type of property and the extent of the work required. However, investing in energy efficiency improvements can result in long-term savings on energy bills, improving the value of the property, and reducing carbon emissions.
How could the insulation of these homes impact the UK’s carbon footprint?
Proper insulation is essential to reduce heat loss in homes. This includes cavity wall insulation, loft insulation, and double glazing.
Improving the insulation of homes can significantly reduce the UK's carbon footprint.
What are some other key methods to ensure properties are as energy efficient as possible?
There are several methods to ensure that properties in the UK are as energy-efficient as possible. These include energy-efficient heating systems (replacing old boilers with energy-efficient models, using smart thermostats, and installing renewable heating systems such as air source heat pumps or ground source heat pumps); renewable energy systems, (solar panels, wind turbines etc), energy-efficient lighting, energy-efficient appliances. It is also important to deliver behavioural change – encouraging [CW1] [SA(U2] households to adopt energy-efficient habits such as turning off lights and electronics when not in use, reducing water consumption, and lowering the thermostat.
How do you believe government will actually approach the repair and upgrade of the buildings in need in the UK?
The biggest role of the government is to set targets and provide the funding necessary to deliver on them. As well as the SHDF and the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, schemes such as the Low Carbon Skills Fund are also fantastic and will be paramount in supporting public sector bodies to access the skills and expertise needed to unlock heat decarbonisation.
From a delivery standpoint, the Government will put the onus on local authorities to identify the buildings that need and would benefit most from upgrades and tackle the issues head on.
Do you believe the industry will be able to meet the government’s EPC targets?
Whether the industry will be able to meet the government's EPC targets will depend on a variety of factors, including the availability of skilled workers, the cost of materials, and the capacity of the industry to undertake the necessary work. The government should continue to work with the industry to promote the benefits of energy-efficient improvements and provide support and training to ensure that the industry can meet the demand for these improvements.
This article originally featured in "Property Week".