With the Department of Economy releasing their latest report into energy efficiency, the need for a retrofit strategy here in NI has never been so urgent.
However failed schemes such as RHI are still fresh in the memory and draining the Executive’s bank account. Sadly, it has tarnished the perception of any scheme that looks at improving the Energy Efficiency of our building stock. But a well-planned and delivered retrofit scheme has long-term health, social and economic benefits for NI.
Why is this needed?
Our homes use 35% of all the energy in the UK and emit 20% of the carbon dioxide emissions. If the UK Government and NI Executive are to deliver their targets of emissions reduction by 2030, and net zero by 2050, household emissions need to be addressed. NI has some 800,000 dwellings, the vast majority of which need improving by having retrofit work carried out.
Retrofit should be carried out alongside all other improvements. When typical home improvement works are undertaken, these represent opportunities to trigger measures to help us along the path to net zero.
The industry can deliver this strategy, but there are critical elements that can only be delivered by the Government. While industry can mobilise some of the capital that is needed, the Government must also invest to instil confidence in the sector.
What are the benefits of investing and implementing a retrofit strategy?
Economic – The Repair, Maintenance and Improvement (RMI) sector would probably be the main deliverer of retrofit work. Retrofit has the potential to create new and higher skilled jobs in every region and community and boost existing firms. There would be a need to work with professional bodies in design and delivery that would ensure quality. This would have a huge positive impact for the economy and offer a clear transparency for the funding. This speaks directly to the Executive’s jobs, and skills agendas.
Social – For individual households, additional disposable income from lower energy bills, the health benefits from improved air quality, a more comfortable home and improved value of their major asset are all important factors.
A staggering stat in recent research highlighted of the 31,100 excess winter deaths in 2012/13 – across the UK, 30 to 50% were due to cold homes! FMB calls for immediate, wise, long-term investment has deep social and financial value in savings for the NHS.
Heating water for use in the kitchen and bathroom accounts for 10% of energy bills. The NI Executive has been challenged to reduce fuel poverty. Again, a retrofit strategy helps the public do this within their own homes.
Environmental – Reduced carbon emissions from our homes will help create a low carbon-built environment and position the NI as a global leader in the low carbon economy. If the Executive are serious about making a real change to our Environment, industry stands ready to help them by working on the basic building block of society, the family home.
How will retrofit be implemented?
We need to see a clear plan and process developed. Here in NI the existing workforce cannot deliver the ambitious programme that could transform both our building stock and the existing construction industry needs. So, with this in mind a scaling up approach is needed to meet the volume of work needed. There is a clear need for Departments such as Finance, Economy and Communities to have a joined-up approach in delivering this.
The Construction Leadership Council, a composite advisory body representing each facet of the Construction Industry to Westminster Departments, recently proposed a scaling up programme period from 2021 until 2040 in England, and their vision could well be applied to NI includes four distinct phases:
• Phase 1 – underpin capability, including an endorsement by the Government of this strategy.
• Phase 2 – a slower start focussing on the education of householders and the wider industry through a clear communications campaign as well as an intensive training programme for new entrants to the industry. Piloting and field trials would also be taking place.
• Phase 3 – a ‘quick’ middle period based on a mature supply chain eco-system and strong customer protection.
• Phase 4 – a ramp down of pace towards the end focussing on hard-to-treat properties, and a phased redeployment of resources to alternate sectors. Industry stands ready to play its part as a partner in this initiative. We look forward to seeing the Executive work alongside us as we safeguard our communities, homes and public buildings.