On Friday 30th June, BHESCo and Community Energy South jointly hosted an event at the Linklater Pavilion in Lewes to introduce ‘RetrofitWorks‘, an innovative online community for generating business in the retrofit industry.

‘Retro-fitting’ means transforming our old, draughty homes to places which are more comfortable to live in, while being less expensive to run.

Over fifty attendees from across the construction sector came along to hear about the scheme and what it can offer.

Adam Bryan, Managing Director, South East Local Enterprise Partnership, spoke first, contextualising RetrofitWorks and the importance of industry co-operation in stimulating growth in the low-carbon sector.

Russell Smith (above right, founder of retro-fit specialists Parity Projects and RetrofitWorks) brought the audience up to date with the platform´s progress and the business it has generated so far.

He explained the benefits of joining the co-operative, which include:

    • Using the online Job Portal to easily identify and bid for work in the local area, receiving a percentage of any profit-share.

 

    • Using in-house training schemes to add certifications and lever procurement power for bulk buying discounts.

 

    • Growing business by generating new customers using low cost acquisition methods.

 

After a well-received buffet-lunch, attendees participated in workshops identifying the challenges and barriers to retro-fitting, and how to best engage potential clients.

Discussion was lively and productive, especially around public and private landlords, both seen as crucial to unlocking the potential of the industry.

At the end of the day we caught up with some attendees to get their feedback. Alex Hunt of Bright Green Homes told us:

“I´m a big fan of RetrofitWorks – it´s about time people worked together getting this agenda forward, and this is the start of something beautiful!”

While Donal Brown, Director of Sustainable Design Collective, said:

“Great day with a lot of solutions-based clarity. Not just well intentioned, the event delivered on professionalism.”

Zoe Osmond of the University of Brighton’s Green Growth Platform spoke of her hope to further the work already begun:

“Fantastic event to introduce this well-developed and visionary tool. I´m enthused and excited by the opportunity to contribute to RetrofitWorks’ supplier network. Our capacity for R&D, innovation, and data-analytics involving academics and students can contribute to and progress the research base.”

For more information on RetrofitWorks and how to join: http://retrofitworks.co.uk/

insulation

Loft insulation was subsidised through the now closed Green Deal Home Improvement Fund

On Thursday 24 July the Government announced the closure of the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund (GDHIF), just six weeks after its launch in June. The closure was in response to a surge in applications following the announcement of the funding cut on the 22 July.

The applicants are largely property developers and construction firms, not the local installers that are working in communities with hard to treat properties. The number of households helped via the fund is miniscule compared to the number of hard to treat properties in the country.

The funding cut meant that from Friday 25 July 2014 new applicants would receive one third less, or £4,000, towards installing external wall insulation, instead of £6,000.  Then suddenly on Thursday 24 July, DECC and MP Amber Rudd, the newly appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Climate Change, announced that due to overwhelming popular demand, the GDHIF was closed for applications with immediate effect. The £50 million budget had been reached.

The cut to the GDHIF is damaging as many of the measures included have long payback periods discouraging investment.  DECC’s impulsive action to close the fund means that homeowners may no longer be interested in pursuing the planned installations. In turn this will affect insulation installers, especially smaller, local businesses, which, due to the inconsistent policy and sudden changes, spend a lot of time quoting for the work only to lose customers and consequently income.   This is on the back of the recent cuts in Energy Company Obligation (ECO) funding that will impact people in fuel poverty this winter.

This rash action from the Government is not new.  Delays in starting the Green Deal, meant that the transition from CERT and CESP to ECO created an instable investment market, stagnating the economy. It has also been revealed that the Green Deal costs more to operate than it has given out: figures from 2013 highlighted administration costs of £44,586 a month*.

In 2011, the Feed In Tariff (FIT) for electricity from solar panels was cut by 40% after less than a year.  This is despite the success of the programme, with 316MW of solar PV installed, enough to power 72,000 homes, in the first 18 months.  The FIT programme saw the rapid rise in Solar PV suppliers, from about 700 in 2009 to almost 4,000 by 2011.  This number has now declined to 2,700.  We are now seeing the same for insulation firms, illustrating the government’s consistent failure to stimulate growth in the labour market for clean tech industries.

The green economy is growing at 5% per annum**, despite these changes.  We can only speculate on the growth rate that would occur were the government to adopt a logical and consistent policy for supporting the clean tech economy which is necessary for the UK to become more energy secure, reach it’s climate change targets and most importantly allow our population to live in more comfortable, energy efficient and less expensive homes.

*http://www.clickgreen.org.uk/news/national-news/124287-exclusive-decc-spends-more-than-3-million-on-green-deal-admin-each-month.html

**http://blueandgreentomorrow.com/2014/03/19/budget-2014-the-reaction/

 


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