Tag Archives: Housing

Energy and Climate Questions to the Mayor

July 2016: This month Mayor’s Question Time included the following:

an update on a GLA study to evaluate the potential for the use trackside solar power production; Post Brexit, how the Mayor will use his role in the Brexit negotiating team to preserve the hard-fought environmental protections; the number of decentralised energy projects that are projected to come online this year; how the Mayor can encourage Londoners to switch energy suppliers; an estimate of the number of connections that will be provided with heat from the Beddington energy from waste plant to the Sutton Decentralised Energy Network (SDEN) – and whether Barratt Homes has signed a heat agreement with the plant’s operator, Viridor; whether the Mayor will respond to the Government’s recently released Energy Company Obligation (ECO) consultation;
work to encourage energy efficiency improvements in the private rented sector (PRS);
the RE:NEW home energy efficiency retrofit programme’s strategy over the coming year; the number of jobs linked to the green economy in London; the Mayor’s role with C40 Cities, and borough surface water management plans

Previous months questions to the Mayor can be found here.

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New London Housing SPG Published

April 2016: Somewhat hidden away on the GLA website (as most things are at the moment…) is a new supplementary planning guidance (SPG) on housing, published a few weeks ago. A detailed history on the lengthy consultation process behind this SPG and its relationship to the London Plan and other key GLA documents is helpfully set out at the designingbuildings wiki, which is worth checking.

The SPG includes a series of housing ‘Standards’ which stem from the policies contained in the London Plan’s Climate Change chapter, with the SPG providing further specific guidance on implementing these policies. Standard 35 is of particular importance, as it is concerned with the London’s Plan requirement for zero carbon development: this issue has had a long and complex history – with the SPG’s confirming that new housing development in London will need to be zero carbon from October 2016 is significant – which is covered in further detail in another post here.

The SPG also refers to action to mitigate ‘overheating’ in new homes in Standard 36 (linked to Policy 5.9 of the London Plan) stating that new “housing needs to be designed for the climate it will experience over its life, taking into account predicted climate change, the potential for summer heat waves, London’s urban heat island effect and the limits of thermal comfort of future residents”. 

The GLA’s Preparing Energy Assessments guidance document has also been expanded and updated in line with these changes in the Housing SPG (with a new section 5 entitled ‘Implementation of zero carbon homes (from 1 October 2016)’ added) and is available to download here (or download from this website here).

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Major London housing development to be zero carbon from October 2016

April 2016: As highlighted in an earlier post – the GLA have just issued new London Housing Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPG) and Energy Planning Guidance which sets out the carbon targets for new residential developments in the capital following the government’s announcement last year to scrap its zero carbon homes policy.

Full detail follows below – but a helpful summary is provided in the GLAs new Energy Assessment Planning Guidance (page 12) on the key takeaway –  new carbon targets:

Stage 1 schemes received by the Mayor up until 30 September 2016 – 35% below Part L 2013 for both residential and commercial development.

Stage 1 schemes received by the Mayor on or after the 1st October 2016 Zero carbon (as defined in section 5.3 of this guidance) for residential development and 35% below Part L 2013 for commercial development

Over the past few months, the Mayor has referred to keeping London’s zero carbon homes policy through a number of responses to Mayoral Questions (see references below). This new Housing SPG is however the first official GLA document which confirms the process for how the zero carbon policy is to be implemented. The full text from the SPG on Zero Carbon Homes follows below – with some accompanying  analysis:

Continue reading…

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Nine Elms District Heating Progress

February 2016:  “SSE Enterprise Utilities has delivered a low carbon multi-utility solution for a new residential and commercial development on the banks of the Thames.
Hundreds of properties at the Riverlight development will be served by an energy centre housing a Combined Heat and Power (CHP) unit, gas fired boilers and ground source heat pumps. Installation and ownership of the water, gas and electricity networks on site means that SSE Enterprise Utilities is providing a true multi-utility service.” Read full SSE news release here. A case study on the project is available here and video here.

Also just released is news from  district heating provider Vital Energi that they won a contract at Nine Elms Point, which will see them install a CHP energy centre, connecting a  further 645 homes to a heat network at this major regeneration site. Nine Elms Point is being delivered in partnership with Sainsbury and Barratt London and Vital have won the contract to perform the installation of the main Energy Centre, Chiller Plant Room and Heat Substations, in addition to all the works to residential and commercial properties, including Hydraulic Interface Units, Cooling Interface Units and Heat Meters in a contract worth £8 million.”

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Mayor pulls no punches in FIT consultation response

23 October 2015: The Mayor has posted his submission to DECC’s Feed in Tariff (FIT) consultation online today (the deadline for the response) alongside a letter to Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom, from Deputy Mayor for Energy & the Environment, Matthew Pencharz.

The letter pulls no punches, stating “Unfortunately, the proposals that have been consulted on, with little or no prior warning, to come into force, in the new year has created great uncertainty in the solar PV industry, potentially putting at threat thousands of jobs across the UK. The Mayor is concerned about the potential impact on the 3,100 jobs, mainly in SMEs, which make up the solar PV industry in London.”

“The Mayor’s view is that in order to ensure an orderly transition to subsidy-free solar PV industry, there should be a gradual tapering of the FIT over a two-three year period.”

The Mayor has voiced his concerns over DECC’s proposals for some months now (see previous statement here) and his sentiments for a ‘gradual tapering’ echo calls from industry organisations, such as the Solar Trade Association, who have strongly campaigned against the proposed ‘cliff edge’ withdrawal of support for solar, setting out their own recommendations in a ‘£1 plan‘ to 2019.

The Mayor’s response to the FIT consultation goes on to raise a number of highly relevant issues for London, including:

  • the proposed cuts to the FIT could significantly hamper solar PV deployment rates in London, which already face major rollout challenges, including negatively impacting upon the delivery of Mayor’s retrofit programmes, RE:NEW and RE:FIT
  • the proposed tightening of the energy efficiency criteria would prevent a large number of properties in London from installing solar PV without significant investment in energy efficiency improvements, for which there is no longer support available following the termination of the Green Deal
  • whilst a move towards smart metering with net metering functionality is welcome, making it a requirement for receipt of the export tariff would require a commitment or obligation on the energy suppliers to install a smart meter in a timely manner, as well as ensuring that the property was currently suitable for installation of a smart meter – an issue which arises frequently in London.

The Mayor’s response also raise concerns about the impact of the proposals on community energy projects in London. All in all, this is a significant intervention by the Mayor in what has become a highly politicised consultation.

At a recent DECC FIT workshop, officials have said they are looking to respond to the consultation by late November/early December (this is needed as the consultation proposes to introduce changes to the FIT programme as early as January 2016!). With the number of responses predicted to be in the thousands (the shorter-run FIT pre-accreditation consultation had over 2,000 responses), and with the threat of major job cuts in the department, it looks like it’s going to be a busy few weeks over at 3 Whitehall Place…

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London Private Rented Sector energy efficiency push

19 December 2014: A mayoral approval document outlines support to two new projects to save energy and carbon in properties in the private rented sector (PRS) and to boost membership of the London Rental Standard (LRS).

The Mayor has approved:

  • Expenditure of £141,000 of capital grant funding and £45,000 of revenue funding including for assessments and testimonial material to support delivery of at least 50 demonstration projects with LRS-accredited landlords, each resulting in a retrofitted PRS home and raising awareness of the benefits that can be achieved.
  • Expenditure of up to £80,000 revenue funding for the development and implementation of a pilot programme to trial the use of incentive payments to LRS-accredited lettings agents for achieving retrofit works on at least 400 PRS properties they let or manage on behalf of private landlords.
  • Expenditure of up to £20,000 revenue funding for the evaluation of both projects.

The approval document sets out the strong rationale for driving ahead the energy efficiency message in the PRS:

  • the PRS accounts for a quarter of London’s housing stock (850,000), is growing fast (nearly doubling in size since 2000)
  • the Energy Act 2011 requires that from 2016 it will be unlawful for landlords to refuse reasonable requests from tenants for energy efficiency improvements, and from 2018 it will become unlawful to rent out EPC F and G rated properties (see DECC’s recent consultation on PRS Energy Efficiency regulations here
  • the Landlords Energy Saving Allowance (LESA), a tax allowance of up to £1,500 per building per year, is available but will end on 6 April 2015
  • the PRS is the worst performing sector in terms of quality of stock. 17% of PRS tenants are in fuel poverty, while 30% of PRS homes fall below the Decent Homes standard (compared with 10% and 21% across London overall).

Full details of each programme is set out in the approval form. The project will be overseen by the Mayor’s Housing Investment Group, which has previously discussed this initiative (see item 8 of minutes) and raised a number of issues including:

  • reasons for targeting PRS properties rather than owner-occupied properties
  • Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) had not yet had a big impact but this would likely to change as from 2017
  • Questions were raised as to whether the scheme would be replicable on a greater scale. The Group heard that, if successful, the programme could be scaled-up and delivered through energy suppliers or contractors, as part of their marketing budgets. A discussion was held regarding the potential involvement of energy suppliers to incentivise the programme. It was agreed that while this could be looked at for future iterations of the programme, to engage energy suppliers at this stage would complicate and delay the start of the programme.
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Energy & Climate Questions to the Mayor

December 2014:  This month the Mayor has been asked questions in relation to:

alternative energy for maritime facilities;  the Mayor’s Energy Advisor’s letter to the Treasury to support tax incentives to help community energy projects; the Belvedere Energy from Waste plant and the Viridor Energy Recovery plant in Beddington, Sutton; the Mayor’s Energy Advisor’s visit to Shanghai and Beijing; the Mayor’s support for minimum energy efficiency standards in the private rented sector; Crossrail stations using decentralised energy; whether the Mayor supports the call for energy efficiency to be made a UK infrastructure priority; research commissioned by the GLA Environment Team this year costing more than £10,000; Islington Council’s recent success at the Energy Institute Awards; TfL officers responsible for examining the potential for solar energy; and again for the Metropolitan Police Service; TfL’s total electricity spend – and the the proportion of electricity it plans to source for low carbon generators in London; whether TfL has undertaken an assessment of solar PV potential across its estate; meetings the Mayor has had with the London Sustainable Development Commission; the amount of solar PV installed across the Met Police’s estate; and also TfL’s estate; a programme for deploying solar across the Met Police’s estate; the Mayor’s support for Cold Homes Week 2015; Excess Winter Mortality (EWM) statistics for London; the number of children in London living in fuel poverty; the number of Londoners living in fuel poverty; if the Mayor had worked with Public Health England on fuel poverty issues; how the Mayor will be helping London households in fuel poverty this winter; Mayoral support for anaerobic digestion facilities in London; the Mayor’s support to older Londoners in fuel poverty; decentralised energy support unit (DEPDU) work on the North London Heat and Power project; the number of RE:NEW households visited with children; RE:NEW programme progress reports; companies on the RE:NEW programme procurement framework and discussions with Brent Council on fracking.

Previous months questions to the Mayor can be found here.

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Research Paper on Mayor’s home energy efficiency programme published

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.

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Wembley District Heating Monitoring Trial

June 2014: Interesting news story that “A pilot project by Octavia Housing is helping landlords re-think how they deliver heat and tackle fuel poverty in thousands of social housing properties across the UK supplied by low carbon district heating systems, by allowing them to monitor system performance and energy use in real-time.”

“The London-based housing association, which owns and manages 4,000 homes, has teamed up with green energy specialist Guru Systems for the project, which will use the company’s pioneering smart metering system to monitor how efficiently the district heating system is working at the flagship Elizabeth House development in the heart of Wembley.”
Read the full story here.

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London housing energy efficiency evidence session

February 2014: On 6 February, the London Assembly Environment Committee held an oral evidence session on the Mayor’s housing energy efficiency retrofit programme, RE:NEW, and its progress to achieving its stated CO2 targets. Details of the evidence session are set out here. A background paper to the evidence session is here. The session was available on webcast and can be viewed here.

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Huge budget cuts planned to Mayor’s environment programme?

20 December 2013: The Mayor today published for consultation his budget for the GLA group for 2014-15 (press release).
The budget document states that a “new look GLA business plan has been published which includes a set of key performance indicators (KPIs) covering all main Mayoral policy and programme activities to be delivered by the GLA.” It’s welcome to see that amongst the 10 “major GLA programmes supporting the Mayor’s ambitions” [p7]  a key deliverable will be “retrofitting more of London’s homes and public workplaces, saving carbon and cutting bills”referring to the RE:NEW and RE:FIT programmes respectively.

Page 14 of the document also states that:
“The Mayor is continuing to work towards improving London’s environment.
Energy supply and master planning is key to delivering sustainable development for London’s economy. Investment will continue through a Decentralised Energy programme to help bring decentralised energy projects to the market.”

At the same time however, it appears from the draft budget that the ‘Development, Enterprise & Environment’ Directorate is facing a massive reduction in its funding from the Mayor. No separate breakdown for the ‘Environment’ section is provided, but the data (table below) indicates that:

  • The draft 2013/14 budget for this Directorate seems to be have massively overestimated  – the current forecast outturn being 25% lower than predicted. It’s not clear however what is contributing to this huge underspend.
  • The level of underspend must have contributed to a significantly reduced future budget for the department – from a forecasted £31.2m just over a year ago, down to £19.9m for the forthcoming year (a 36% reduction)
  • And the 15/16 plan for the ‘Development, Enterprise & Environment’ Directorate is down to just £10.7m – a 66% reduction from the forecasted 13/14 budget
  • The planned reduction in budget for this Directorate far exceeds all others, some of which – like the Mayor’s Office – will remain static over the three year period.

There’s unfortunately to detail whatsoever within the budget document on the specific environment-team spend, or of future funding going to individual programmes. No further information is provided on the KPIs for the 10 ‘key deliverables’  (as mentioned in para 1 above) – however – future RE:NEW and RE:FIT programme targets to 2016 were recently set out in the Mayor’s draft Housing Strategy. Additionally, an interesting exchange on the Mayor’s retrofit programme RE:NEW was recorded in a November 2013 evidence session on the draft budget to the London Assembly Budget & Performance Committee (see page 17 of transcript) – also copied below:

Continue reading…

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RE:NEW targets set out

December 2013: The Mayor’s recently released draft housing strategy states that “The capital also has some of the worst housing conditions in the country, thus prioritising estate based regeneration through improving the quality and energy efficiency of existing homes remains a key priority. To achieve this the Mayor will make available funding to ensure that by 2016 all council landlords will be in a position to independently resolve their Decent Homes backlog, and will support affordable housing providers to retrofit their entire stock for improved energy performance by 2020.”

Section 2.6 of the consultation paper directly addresses ‘Retrofitting and improving energy efficiency’ and provides some useful information on the Mayor’s ambitions for his flagship environmental programme, RE:NEW:

“To increase retrofit numbers under the government’s Energy Company Obligation (ECO) and Green Deal schemes, the RE:NEW programme has put in place measures to assist all large landlords in London to identify works that can be carried out to their stock, procure the works, access finance and manage contractors. This support will continue until at least 2016, maintaining the momentum for the successor ECO arrangements. The GLA is keen to expand retrofit activity on a more strategic area, or even whole borough, basis. The Green Deal also represents an innovative way to finance energy efficiency works which saves money for individual households. The Mayor will continue to promote the opportunities that the Green Deal offers to Londoners across all tenures. As Table 1 shows, the projected rate of delivery in London is therefore expected to increase significantly over the next three years. “

All of this may however change markedly following the Government’s recent announcement that it will scale back the level of support going to insulation through the ECO as well as significantly reduce the level of solid wall insulation (SWI) installations: the boost in support to SWI systems was often quoted by Government as being a huge advantage to the Mayor’s retrofit ambitions in London due to the high prevalence of solid wall homes here.

Further updated details on the RE:NEW programme.

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