Tag Archives: DECC

SWI gets permitted development rights

January 2013: Solid Wall Insulation’s (SWI) time has finally come and it is now the key technology to be supported in the Government’s annual £1.3 billion ECO domestic energy efficiency programme (which came into operation at the beginning of this year). However, a significant barrier to the roll out of SWI was potential planning difficulties householders could face when wishing to retrofit their homes with SWI.

So it was good to see a tweet from DECC Minister Greg Barker last week announcing that the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) – which sets the policy for planning – had issued new guidance which allows SWI to be fitted without planning approval.

No DECC or DCLG news release was issued, and it was left to BusinessGreen to explain the change. “The formal clarification confirms solid wall insulation – which is commonly fitted to the exterior of a building, potentially changing the look of a property – is classified as a “permitted development”, meaning property owners can undertake the work without specific planning permission.

“Listed buildings and properties in conservation areas will remain an exception to the rule and would require specific planning permission, but Barker predicted that planning issues would “not present a problem for the vast majority of people intending to put solid wall insulation on their houses”.

The clarification is made in the following Technical Guidance issued on the government’s planning portal website ‘Permitted development for householders‘ and the wording in the document which marks such a major change for the insulation industry is remarkably succinct:

“The installation of solid wall insulation constitutes an improvement rather than an enlargement or extension to the dwellinghouse [sic] and is not caught by the provisions of d(i) and d(ii).” [p13]

where d(i) to d(ii) set out limits and conditions to permitted development rights to the enlargement, improvement or other alteration of a house.

There is now a lot of activity around rolling out SWI in London including:

“A leading SWI installer recognised that in London there was no supplier stocking the full range of SWI materials required for jobs. Consequently, firms involved in one-off SWI jobs found it virtually impossible to source products at competitive rates. As a large contractor, the firm has worked hard to bulk purchase equipment for itself. Needing a warehouse for its own operations, it decided that it could help supply the sector at the same time.”

There’s still some way to go for SWI to make its impact in London. Even with permitted development rights, planning permission will be required in conservation areas and, as the Future of London report points out – there are around 600,000 homes in conservation areas in London, roughly half the national total and around 60 per cent of all homes in the capital are solid wall.

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“The blunt answer is yes; in my view fuel poverty in London is getting worse”

January 2013: The transcript of discussions at the last Mayoral Question time has just become available and includes a number of interesting comments by the Mayor on both fuel poverty and his domestic energy efficiency programme, RE:NEW:

4046/2012 – Fuel Poverty Murad Qureshi: Is fuel poverty getting worse in London?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): The blunt answer is yes; in my view fuel poverty in London is getting worse. There is a problem in London because the price of fuel is increasing at a faster rate than household income. We have an increasing problem and that is why the Know Your Rights campaign is so important, the retro fitting is so important to reduce people’s fuel costs. I also think that, as a city, we need to campaign against the fuel companies who are ripping off the consumer, and I have made representations, as you would expect, on that. I think we need to start thinking about security of supply in London, and indeed in the country generally.

Continue reading…

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Evaluation of DECC Local Authority Competitions

December 2012: DECC have issued a tender to evaluate a series of competitions they have recently launched and the Invitation to Tender (ITT) document provides some useful information on the background to how the department will measure the success of these three particular schemes – which are:

  • “Fuel Poverty Fund (£25m) The overall aim of the project is to reduce the extent of fuel poverty through the provision of resources to support improvements to the thermal efficiency of dwellings.
  • The Green Deal Pioneer Places Fund (£10m)The primary purpose of the funding is for local authorities (LAs) and/or consortia of LAs (e.g. counties) to demonstrate ambitious approaches to kick starting local Green Deal activity in both the domestic and non-domestic sectors in England.
  • ‘Cheaper Energy Together’ collective switching fund (£5m)The primary purpose of the funding is to support innovative collective switching or purchasing schemes by Local Authorities or third sector organisations which aim to achieve better deals on energy bills for consumers through collective purchasing power.

Applications for the competitions were submitted at the end of November.  We expect the majority of project activity to complete by the end of March. “

The winners have as yet not been announced by Government: Secretary of State Ed Davey did however recently say that  115 applications had been received to “Cheaper Energy Together” competition.

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The DECC-Local Government MoU

November 2012: A recent Parliamentary Question has provided an update, of sorts, on the DECC-Local Government MoU. Firstly – a quick re-cap. On 9 March 2011 Chris Huhne, the former Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, signed a “ground-breaking Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) designed to recognise the pivotal role local councils have in tackling climate change.See the full news release issued at the time here. The MoU itself can be downloaded here.

The MoU set out how DECC and the Local Government (LG) Group would work together to help and encourage all councils to take firm action to:

  • reduce the carbon emissions from their own estate and operations
  • reduce carbon emissions from homes, businesses and transport infrastructure, creating more, appropriate renewable energy generation, using council influence and powers; and
  • participate in national carbon reduction initiatives at the local level, particularly the roll out of the Green Deal, smart metering and renewable energy deployment.

The MoU was to be underpinned by a number of actions including a management board on which DECC and the LG Group will be represented and an action plan that would take forward specific actions outlined in the LG Group ‘offer’ to DECC.

Though there has been some movement in DECC’s relationship with local government this year, specifically the publication of revised HECA guidance, and the commissioning of the Committee on Climate Change to provide guidance for local authorities (also see here) on reducing carbon emissions, there has been next to no mention of the MoU. It was therefore useful that Shadow Energy Minister Luciana Berger MP recently raised the issue of progress on some  specific actions raised in the MoU:

Luciana Berger: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (1) with reference to his Department’s Memorandum of Understanding with the Local Government Group, what steps his Department is taking to ensure that its policy-making process takes account of the role of local councils in achieving or developing policy; [126591]
(2) when his Department plans to publish a review of the Memorandum of Understanding between his Department and the Local Government Group; [126592]
(3) whether he has met senior political representatives from the Local Government Group of the Local Government Association to review the Memorandum of Understanding, the Annual Report and council action on climate change set out in the Memorandum of Understanding between his Department and the Local Government Group; [126593]
(4) which senior civil servants from his Department have been assigned to work with the Local Government Association on steps to ensure that the milestones in Annex A of the Memorandum of Understanding between his Department and the Local Government Group are met; [126596]
(5) what meetings his Department has facilitated between the Local Government Group and other Government departments as set out in the Memorandum of Understanding between his Department and the Local Government Group. [126597]

Gregory Barker: My officials and I hold discussions with the Local Government Association (LGA) on a range of policy issues of mutual interest, including on the memorandum of understanding (MoU).
To my knowledge, the Department has not facilitated meetings between the LGA and other Government Departments.
I am currently discussing with the LGA the report of progress against the MoU. This work is led in DECC by officials from the Energy Efficiency Deployment Office.

A further PQ on another MoU action elicited a similar disappointing response:

Luciana Berger: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (1) who sits on his Department’s Devolved, Sub-National Reform and Local Carbon Accountability Project Board; [126594]
(2) how many times his Department’s Devolved, Sub-National Reform and Local Carbon Accountability Project Board has met since March 2011. [126595]

Gregory Barker: The Devolved, Sub-National Reform and Local Carbon Accountability Project Board membership comprised officials from DECC, the Department of Communities and Local Government, HM Treasury, Department of Business, Innovation and Skills and the Local Government Association.
There have been no meetings of the board since March 2011.

A final (to date) attempt by Ms Berger to find out how DECC was working with local government on energy issues didn’t help either.

A speech by Ed Davey to the LGA earlier this year highlighted the importance of local authorities stating “the more I do the job, it’s clearer that national government can’t deliver on its energy and climate change policy without local government.” It’s hence a great shame that this unique relationship on energy and climate issues between central and local government has been all but abandoned.

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DECC Community Energy Strategy Update

November 2012: DECC’s recently released Energy Efficiency Strategy includes the following update on its work to develop the first ever Community Energy Strategy for the UK:

“DECC is working with stakeholder groups to develop a Community Energy Strategy that will support activity with communities across the Department. This strategy will inform how the Department works with community groups and local organisations across all aspects of buying, saving and generating energy, and make sure our community schemes are fit for purpose. The DECC Community Energy Strategy is to be developed over the coming months, and will be available for use from Summer 2013.

DECC established a Community Energy Contact Group (CECG) earlier this year to help develop the Community Energy Strategy. Minutes of the Group’s October meeting have just been posted online by DECC – and provide some interesting detail on current discussions between the Group and DECC including – under item 5 – the CECG’s views on what are – from ‘Energy for London’s perspective – some sensible ‘must haves’ for the forthcoming strategy. The minutes can be accessed here.

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The ECO brokerage

November 2012: Though there has been much discussion on the ‘start’ of the Green Deal and Energy Company Obligation (ECO), there has been little mention of the new ECO brokerage system that had been proposed. The key idea behind the brokerage –  a new online system that would allow Green Deal Providers to access ECO  funds by bidding in projects which energy suppliers could choose to ‘buy’ – was that it would potentially allow a wider number of actors to participate in the ECO, such as local authorities and community groups. It would also provide DECC with greater transparency with regard to the costs met by suppliers in meeting their ECO obligation, something which DECC has little information of to date under CERT.

The brokerage was discussed in a workshop at last week’s Local Government Association’s Green Deal and ECO conference where the following updates were provided by DECC:

  • DECC had established a brokerage working group to discuss how the system could operate. No agreement was reached however on the key issue of what level the brokerage would play in suppliers achieving their ECO targets – ie to what extent suppliers would be obligated to purchase ECO ‘points’ from Green Deal Providers submitting projects – or if suppliers participation in the brokerage system is to be volutnary
  • An ECO brokerage consultation document was to be issued in the ‘summer’. DECC’s Green Deal’s progress document in June 2012 stated that “we will seek voluntary commitments from the energy companies to use the brokerage mechanism from October to allow other organisations to access  ECO subsidy. In September we will consult on whether there is a need for further legislation to oblige energy companies to use the ECO brokerage mechanism and if so how much subsidy they should be required to trade.” All of this is behind schedule.
  • In yesterday’s Green Deal webchat DECC Minister Greg Barker stated “Energy Compnies can already start delivering against their ECO targets already but we want to open the market up further and will be consulting shortly on the ECO Brokerage.”
  • DECC announced at the LGA conference that they had hired a ‘trader’ within the department and a few trial trades will take place this December to help with some ‘active learning’ on how such a system could work
  • DECC also stated that they ‘would not oblige energy companies to use the brokerage – but could do’
  • The brokerage would operate as a ‘blind mechanism’ – ie energy companies would not see which specific organisation were bidding in projects, to ensure that all trades were fair
  • The brokerage would not deliver 100% of all ECO projects: existing obligation programmes had established good relationships between energy companies and local authorities and other housing providers. Such bilateral contracts should continue
  • Related to the above – British Gas – who were at the workshop – stated that their aspiration was to continue building such longer term partnerships
  • Only Green Deal Providers would be allowed to submit projects into the brokerage system. Local authorities and social landlords would fit this criteria – and some are looking at registering as Providers. There would still be scope for smaller organisations, such as  community groups, to participate in the brokerage, as they could partner with a Green Deal Providers to submit projects, without having to go through the necessary ‘due diligence’ Green Deal Provider process themselves
  • A key concern raised was the ability of local authorities to develop projects to submit into the brokerage when funds were being withdrawn from key growth sectors such as environmental and energy services.
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London should not be a ‘no-go’ area to suppliers meeting their energy efficiency obligations

17 October 2012: Over 100 people  came together in Islington’s Assembly Hall for the End Fuel Poverty Coalition’s Local Action for Warm Homes event. The aim of the conference was to show how councils, working with the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, can play a central role in helping the Government meet its statutory target to eliminate fuel poverty (as set out in the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act 2000). Energy Minister Greg Barker MP addressed the audience on current Government action to tackle fuel poverty.

Energy for London asked the Minister about how proposals to change the definition of fuel poverty – which correctly take housing costs into consideration – will lead to a doubling in the number of fuel poor households in London (see previous post for further details).  Mr Barker stated that:

  • In terms of tackling fuel poverty London needs to recognised as  a special case
  • He would not allow London to be a “no-go area” for energy suppliers in meeting their energy efficiency obligations (especially in central London) simply because of the higher costs of delivery
  • DECC had no specific solutions on tackling fuel poverty issues in London as yet – but the department has a good working relationship with the Mayor and that they would be following up on options following the conclusions of the current fuel poverty definition consultation.
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Numbers of fuel poor in London to rise by 50%

This gallery contains 1 photo.

September 2012: DECC have issued a consultation proposing the adoption of a new definition for fuel poverty. This follows an extensive review by Professor John Hills of LSE, initiated by the Government in 2010, who reported to Government earlier this year, … Continue reading

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Mayor’s Briefing Note on the Green Deal

July 2012: During last week’s Parliamentary debate on the four key Green Deal statutory instruments (SIs), Labour Shadow Energy Minister Luciana Berger MP mentioned the following:

“…I was surprised on Friday to receive an e-mail which began:

“Dear Luciana,  In advance of Monday’s Committee scrutiny of the Green Deal statutory instruments, I thought it may be helpful to send a very short briefing note from the Mayor of London.”
Once I had checked that it was not a joke—if anyone wants to see it, I have it here—I was delighted to find a neat little document setting out exactly what is lacking in the Minister’s current proposals and how they could be made much better.  I must ask the Minster, is it now Conservative policy to brief the Opposition on the weaknesses of their policies?” [Column 12/13 of debate]

The briefing provided by the Mayor’s office to Ms Berger can be downloaded here. It highlights the Mayor’s concerns that:

  • “The capital has by far the highest number of needy properties of any region, but there is a real danger that these properties could be sidelined by Green Deal providers as a result of the current framework being proposed by Government.
  • …there is a pressing need for an area allocation for the Energy Company Obligation (ECO). Without such a target there is a real danger that London will miss out on the attention it needs, as energy companies and Green Deal providers focus on treating areas that are cheaper and easier to retrofit.
  • …without an area allocation to ensure that flats and mid-terraces – key markets in London for the Green Deal – are able to access ECO subsidies, there is a serious threat that these homes will miss out on the benefits of the scheme.
  • Londoners could end up paying an additional £390m on their energy bills to fundthe Green Deal nationally, while the capital receives investment of only £156m in return –an unacceptable possibility given London’s specific needs.
  • Only 1/3 of the suppliers for London’s unique RE:NEW scheme, which provides energy efficiency measures to needy London homes, have expressed interest in becoming Green Deal providers so far, and it is extremely important for the success of thescheme that more providers are encouraged to get involved in the capital.”

The issue of establishing a regional target for London – or area allocation as mentioned in the Mayor’s briefing note – has previously been considered – and rejected – by Government in the Green Deal consultation document from November 2011.  A section titled ‘Regional Distribution’ in the consultation [p132/133] stated:

“Concerns have also been raised that rural areas and inner cities have not been seen an equal, proportional level of delivery of energy efficiency measures under CERT – and that this perceived pattern might be borne out in the ECO without additional constraints being put in place.

“…There is some variation between regions, for example, 9.9% of homes in North East England but only 2.7% of homes in London received measures under CERT during the period of the analysis. However, it is very difficult to isolate the cause of any under delivery in specific areas as a number of factors are at play, including: previous activity; LA and other potential partner activity or resource; prevalence of different property types (flats, solid wall, etc); expense of activity (could economies of scale be generated); distance from installers; etc.

“…In view of the evidence from CERT, and consideration of the shift of focus that the ECO would entail, DECC does not see a case for introducing further constraints to delivery in geographical terms. There might be a case for reconsidering this position at a review point, when there would be evidence on the patterns of geographical distribution of measures from the new obligations. DECC would welcome further evidence on this issue during consultation.”

Consequently, the Government’s recent response to the consultation makes no comment on specific regional provisions at all.

The Mayor’s briefing note suggested that “Provision for area allocations could be delivered through secondary legislation or within the ECO brokerage document, which will set out how Green Deal providers can access ECO funding.” The Green Deal SIs were however ‘Affirmative instruments’ which means in Parliamentary language that Parliament could accept or reject the SIs but could not amend them. Government decisions on the ECO brokerage have however not been finalised as yet, and a further consultation on a model for this is to be held by DECC over the summer.

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Free training events for Environmental Health Officers on assessing for excess cold

July 2012: National Energy Action (NEA) has received support from DECC to offer free training sessions to Environmental Health Officers on how to assess for Excess Cold. The London workshop appears to be hosted by the Haringey – however – exact venue/date details are note provided as yet. For more information on this free training click here.

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New Government Community Energy Strategy

22 June 2012: Energy Minister Greg Barker tweeted (copied below) from the ‘LEAF Experience Event’ held yesterday in London that  DECC is to develop a new Community Energy Strategy, which is to be launched within months.

Further information on the Local Energy Assessment Fund (LEAF) on the LEAF EST pages, and DECC’s Community Energy Portal.  Details of London LEAF projects on an earlier post.

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June 2012: Confused by all the recent changes to the Government’s FIT programme? Here’s a FAQ document DECC have just posted online which goes some way to help explain…

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