28 RCI 0514

RCI May 2014

ECO COMMENT The current hot potato, the future of the government’s Energy Company Obligation scheme (ECO), is being debated by people from all corners of the industry. With negative reports frequently appearing in the media, it makes for bleak reading for housing associations and local authorities who were relying on ECO to improve their housing stock. After a slow start, the industry was just beginning to get to grips with the complexities of the Government’s latest energy efficiency initiative when cuts to the scheme – announced in the Autumn Statement last December – created confusion once again. The proposed changes within the ECO consultation, effective from April 2015, are causing ructions throughout the EWI industry, with many questioning the decision to cut the minimum number of EWI installations from 65,000 a year to 25,000 a year. With some seven million solid wall properties in need of insulation in the UK and half of all households in fuel poverty living in solid wall properties, there is a strong argument for EWI measures to be increased not reduced. Wetherby is working closely with other manufacturers, contractors and trade associations, including the National Insulation Association, to ensure a strong response to the consultation is submitted that addresses the many concerns of the EWI industry. However, while this is key to the success of the scheme in the long term and there are several points that need addressing, there is no 028 MAY 2014 RCIMAG.COM The ECO scheme is evolving, so act now Dave Sherlock, energy efficiency manager for Wetherby Building Systems, discusses the impact the ECO consultation is having on the EWI industry and explains why he feels it is not all doom and gloom need for projects to come to a complete halt during this process. It is not all doom and gloom; ECO has had many success stories since its launch nearly 18 months ago, and there is still funding available for external wall insulation (EWI) schemes which needs tapping into. Up to January 2014, a total of 603,050 energy efficiency measures have been installed under ECO, with over half a million (507,191) households benefitting from warmer, more energy efficient homes and reduced energy bills. This achievement should not be overlooked and only serves to highlight the importance of continuing to invest in upgrading the UK’s thermally inefficient housing stock. Waiting game… This is not an easy task and the problem being encountered is that the entire industry has come to a virtual standstill until the outcome of the ECO consultation is confirmed. The fact that many within the industry do not seem to have realised yet is that, while this waiting game is played, the current scheme is still running until March 2015, with funding available that is not being accessed. While funding for Carbon Reduction Obligation (CERO) projects is now limited for the remainder of the current period, the majority of energy suppliers are still providing funding, albeit on a reduced scale, for Carbon Savings Community Obligation (CSCO) schemes, which focus on households in areas of high deprivation. With the utility companies currently calculating the carbon savings they have made to date, it is fair to say they are being selective about the schemes that they will fund going forward to ensure they make a significant impact on their obligation requirements. Funding will be granted for upgrade programmes that meet strict criteria and demonstrate strong carbon reductions, so it is important that social housing providers work with partners that have the knowledge and experience to help them identify the most appropriate housing areas for funding. With this in mind, housing associations and local authorities should not be waiting for the market to reignite. The outcome of the ECO consultation is unknown and it remains unclear what level of funding will be available, and which measures will be included from April 2015, so funding should be accessed now to upgrade as many vulnerable households as possible. Fully funded ECO projects are not currently possible due to the reductions in the cost per carbon tonne that energy companies are offering. However, housing associations and local authorities who are able to make a contribution from their own budgets may be surprised at what is still possible and need to be working together with their approved contractors, manufacturers and suppliers to identify eligible areas of housing stock for refurbishment projects. Despite governmental energy efficiency schemes such as ECO gaining lots of negative publicity within the media, it is important not to lose sight of the fact that there are currently millions of homes in the UK in desperate need of refurbishment. Successful schemes that have been completed under ECO just serve to highlight how vital it is that vulnerable properties continue to be thermally upgraded to create warmer, more comfortable homes for millions of families, while reducing their energy bills. The ECO scheme is evolving and there is uncertainty as to what it will look like in the future, so Wetherby is urging social housing providers to act now and take the opportunity to upgrade their properties before the current period ends in March 2015. www.wbs-ltd.co.uk Dave Sherlock, energy efficiency manager at Wetherby Building Systems Wetherby’s EpsiWall system was installed on this ECO project in Gosport


RCI May 2014
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