Social housing providers are in a unique position to drive the move to a more energy efficient society, argues Tom Pakenham
Leading the way
The UK needs to stop thinking of the low energy future as a long-term goal, but rather as something we can make real strides towards right now, and the social housing sector is in a prime position to lead the way with widespread action.
We live in a changing world, with the clean energy age set to replace the industrial age, with eyes turning to decentralised energy supply, and this is a sector which can be at the heart of the new power dawn.
With an existing affordable housing stock of almost five million properties across the country, all of which are managed by local authorities or registered providers, this is a significant segment of UK homes which can realistically be upgraded in a co-ordinated manner, sooner, rather than later.
When it comes to increasing the energy efficiency of an existing property, there are certain times in a home’s life cycle when any temporary disruption which may be caused by such work can be reduced. It cannot be said enough times that the ongoing refurbishment programmes in place for affordable homes provide an ideal opportunity for the cost-effective retro-fitting of energy saving measures.
We are currently working with two landlords on exactly such an integration of measures into their programmes, with the primary aim of reducing fuel poverty, and one innovative experimental retrofit has seen a 94 per cent reduction in the fuel bills of a Victorian terraced house in London. The result was hailed by the founder of the acclaimed Passivhaus Trust as one of the most advanced projects worldwide and, as the home, managed by Octavia Housing, is in a conservation area, it makes the success of the work even more notable.
What this proves is that, with the right design, even the draughtiest of old homes can take advantage of such measures, and the opportunities afforded by the green deal. Additionally, with the launch of the provisionally-named Green Deal Conduit network, landlords’ ability to access those contractors capable of designing and implementing these measures is broadened to include the expertise and attention to detail of the SME sector.
For landlords, the real pay-off is that these measures play a large part in working towards meeting the needs of the people they were established to serve. The long-term reductions in fuel costs go towards reducing fuel poverty, while the measures as a whole improve the comfort of the homes they live in.
The recent figures released by Riverside, in Liverpool, with total energy bill savings of £1.2 million across its housing stock and individuals households’ bills being reduced by as much as £520, show the great results which can be achieved and efforts should be made to replicate this across the country. Such action can lift countless families out of fuel poverty.
Social housing providers are, therefore, once again in a unique position to drive significant and forward-thinking change in our society. Saving tenants money and improving UK energy efficiency are all huge benefits of embracing high levels of sustainability, not only in the future housing stock, but also in that which already exists.
Tom Pakenham is the founder and chairman of Green Tomato Energy