July 2014: The results of a study of the Mayor’s home energy efficiency programme, RE:NEW, has recently been published in major academic journal Energy Policy (which – for once – is freely available online!) focussing on the first major roll-out of phase of RE:NEW, delivered between July 2011 and April 2012, where 50,683 homes underwent a RE:NEW home energy visit.
The conclusions set out in the paper are quite stark and concludes that with respect to the programme’s engagement with households, that RE:NEW:
- Visits do not generate significant pro-environmental behaviour change.
- Visits do not overcome the barriers to the installation loft and wall insulation.
The paper’s author researched the delivery of RE:NEW in three inner London boroughs and provides a helpful contribution in understanding the limitations and constraints of the programme. The paper also identifies why the design of the programme may have contributed to the challenges RE:NEW faced in achieving its goals and also in engaging effectively with householders. These include:
- “The RE:NEW programme and the specification of the visit were conceived at City Hall and were based on a policy intent of reducing carbon emissions, rather than as the result of demands or expressed desire from residents. As a result, the appetite for the programme, from householders, was questionable.”
- one of the limitations of the home energy visit was the time constraint on visits. Visits generally lasted about an hour and this was due to a number of reasons. Most of the advisors were employed as contract workers and were paid a fixed price for each visit delivered…there was a focus on the number of visits delivered, rather than the length or quality of the visit.
- the short visit length meant that advisors did not have adequate time to install all of the easy measures provided during the visit.
- The effectiveness of visits, specifically in relation to encouraging the adoption of curtailment behaviours, was limited by the expertise of the ‘energy advisors’ who had inadequate training prior to delivering visits.
- over 70% of the visits to the sample groups in local authorities B and C, the householder receiving the visit was living in rented (privately, council or RSL) housing and did not have control over the potential to install further measures.
- the GLA and the local authorities were focused on achieving different outcomes from the RE:NEW visits. For the GLA, the focus of the visits was on reducing carbon emissions, whereas for the local authorities, the focus was on reducing fuel poverty, but these differing aims are not necessarily complementary
- If an impact-oriented approach is taken to reducing carbon emissions then the focus of home energy visits may better placed be on high energy consumers, who are likely to be from more wealthy neighbourhoods and home-owners who will have the control over their properties to make structural changes. Though using tax-payers money to fund such work is unlikely to be politically acceptable
Overall, the study concludes: “Negligible savings were achieved as a result of the installation of significant measures. The impact of the visit on energy and water saving behaviours were also negligible. Overall, for these households, the impact of a visit led to an estimated average reduction in annual household emissions of 3%.”
The paper notes that some of the limitations of the RE:NEW programme have been recognised, and were set out in an evaluation report published earlier this year by the GLA (see earlier post here for background and link to paper).
A third phase of the RE:NEW programme has recently been initiated by the GLA.