Start talking about climate change and people immediately rush to talk about renewables, solar, wind, wave and community energy. As important and exciting as these are the need to focus on retrofitting and making it as ‘sexy’ is undeniable.
It should be obvious that the easiest way to slow climate change is to find painless ways to burn less fossil fuel, without freezing yourself. Put simply we can a burn a lot less fuel without sacrificing any comfort or warmth.
In the London Borough of Haringey, we are continuously working hard to deliver on our promise on reducing carbon emissions by 40% by 2020 – and recently we pledged to be the UK’s first zero carbon borough – no later than 2050.
Promises are easy, but the task of government must be to fulfil such promises. That is why in 2010 we worked with Andrew Sims, from NEf among others to produce the 40:20 Carbon Commission. It set out a clear plan about how emissions would be reduced in the borough – and believe this remains the only such document in the UK.
It identified no less than 25% of the reduction in emissions would come from retro fitting the borough’s housing stock, especially as homes account for 50% of Haringey’s total emissions and only 20% coming from transport.
In fact the UK’s housing stock is amongst the most wasteful, in terms of energy consumption, and we have been amongst the poorest in improving our properties. In Northern Europe it has been said that only Estonia has a worse record of introducing efficiency measures. The cost both economically and environmentally is almost criminal, whilst fixing this problem is not without its economic benefits.
Last year we secured funding from the Department of Energy and Climate Change for Haringey’s Smart Homes Project to kickstart demand for such measures, which is now in its final phase. We have successfully managed this project on behalf of Camden, Enfield, Islington, Waltham Forest and Hackney Councils delivering the benefit and economies of scale across the North London boroughs. Historically a lack of collaboration has been responsible for London not getting its fair share of energy grants.
The programme has incentivised uptake of solid wall insulation alongside other energy efficiency measures. At the same time we want to increase awareness of energy efficiency, reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions to deliver the boroughs carbon targets.
Residents in the Smart Homes project were offered a grant of £6,000 for solid wall insulation, or up to £3,000 for heating and windows upgrades. To receive the grants they were required to contribute at least 25% extra to the total cost of the works. The Smart Homes project received over 4,000 expressions of interest through the advice line in the first 6 months. Over 25% of these calls moving from interest to installations this shows that the homeowners market is there but needs support to enable action. It is a case of simple behaviour change – raise awareness, provoke interest, and offer a not insignificant carrot. For those who complain that these incentives are going to wealthier homes, we need to remain focused on the fact the majority of emissions come from such homes, and letting things carry on abated will only leave the poorest to deal with the outcomes of unabated climate change.
In Haringey, we are always looking to do things differently. Alongside the benefit to residents, the Council supported the local supply chain through the development of a “RetrofitWorks Cooperative”. This meant small businesses could compete in a Green Deal market that has been made too complex for small tradespeople to otherwise compete, and make it more likely it would stimulate local job creation.
There are now over 30 locally approved installers working within Haringey’s RetrofitWorks Cooperative. These local companies are delivering a higher standard of service and are leading the way number of installations measures.
This has led to retaining existing jobs and creating new short- term employment opportunities. Alongside the installation process Haringey’s community groups focusing on energy and energy efficiency were active in working alongside Smart Homes delivering energy advice and promoting the scheme.
All in all to date we are have awarded over 1000 grants to residents, businesses and landlords to install energy measures, and with it a cohort of advocate for the next phase of engagement.
This involves three key strategies. firstly we are exploring how we may continue a similar scheme across the 6 boroughs with support from either the private sector or DECC. Secondly we need to see how we can use our planning powers, to stimulate activity when people are doing home improvements. Finally we have launched a zero-fifty carbon commission being led by my colleague, and SERA exec member Natan Doron. It will look at how we can drive the highest standards in the large parts of the borough that are likely to be regenerated and it is chaired by Andrew Gould. The hope is that we can achieve design standards that will mean we won’t have to retro t in the future.
Our first test was the recent planning permission granted to the Spurs stadium where the energy infrastructure of the plans occupied a significant part of the committees discussion, with some positive results. We will need to do a lot more of the same if we are to achieve our goals but, in Haringey, we are determined to show it can be done.
Cllr Joe Goldberg is the Cabinet Member for Economic Development, Social Inclusion and Sustainability in the London Borough of Haringey. This ‘View from Local Government’ by Cllr Joe Goldberg originally featured in the Spring 2016 New Ground. The views expressed in New Ground are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the editor, SERA its executive or its members. If you would like to contribute to future editions, please contact Melanie Smallman, Co-Chair at firstname.lastname@example.org.