ENERGY CHAMPION WINNER: Local Authority – Community – National Energy Foundation

INNOVATION AND PRODUCT SELECTION/DIVERSITY

In July 2013 the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) launched the Green Deal Communities (GDC) programme to maximise the delivery of Green Deal Plans across whole communities/streets including those that were hard to reach.

South Bucks District Council (SBDC) successfully bid for £2.5m of this funding on behalf a partnership of 14 local authorities across Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Hertfordshire. Through a competitive tender process the National Energy Foundation (NEF) were appointed project managers. The plan was to deliver solid wall insulation (SWI) in hard to treat domestic dwellings on a street by street basis, providing a 70% subsidy to homeowners (Phase I) and in Phase II to fully fund the uptake of energy efficiency measures for those in fuel poverty. Hart to treat domestic dwellings either have solid walls (the most common method of building homes prior to the 1930’s) or have been system built from concrete and or steel (for example).

The project has delivered SWI and other energy efficiency improvements to combat fuel poverty and reduce carbon emissions to 586 dwellings. The DECC funding was blended with Energy Company Obligation (ECO) funding, top up contributions from Local Authorities (LAs), homeowners, private and public sector landlords and British Gas (for boiler replacements). The SBDC GDC project also worked alongside the British Gas Energy Trust Better Housing Better Health project which focuses on supporting residents suffering illnesses exacerbated by cold homes and the Affordable Warmth Network (AWN) a programme delivered by NEF and funded by eight local authorities across Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire.

This blending of funds demonstrated a clear vision to provide outcomes for local communities, and the joined up approach taken by all partners to ensure efficient use of available resources.
In Phase I the Project Managers, the National Energy Foundation (NEF) and the local authorities identified streets with at least 250 hard to treat properties with an active community group who could help promote the project. Streets were selected using a mixture of local knowledge, Google street view and spot checking existing Energy Performance Certificates (EPC). To be eligible householders had to pay a contribution and have a Green Deal Assessment that recommended SWI. In Phase II householders had to be on a means tested benefit and have an EPC that recommended the energy efficiency measure to be installed.

The partnership used innovative approaches for project delivery, as follows:-

  • 1. The partnership approach is innovative in term of its scale and wide geographical coverage.
  • 2. Shared intelligence and resources has benefited local residents. The partnership draws on partner and contractor expertise and is able to deliver, not deliberate.
  • 3. The Partnership has jointly created and works to pan-regional project/grant criteria.
  • 4. Working with the Bucks and Oxon Affordable Warmth Networks has the additional benefit and value of offering a much wider range of advice and services to residents, not just administering grants!
  • 5. The provision of a real ‘one stop shop’! LA’s are funding NEF to act as Project Manager who acts as the ‘clearing house’ for grant allocation and delivery of works. All residents just have to dial one number for home energy efficiency advice and the relevant grant scheme.
  • 6. The project has used social media as a communication tool – such as advertising on West Oxfordshire, Chiltern and South Bucks Facebook and Twitter for example, rather than just a news article on the website.
  • 7. LA’s and NEF agreed joint marketing approaches under the Affordable Warmth Banner, providing residents with a secure, enduring and trusted brand image.
  • 8. There has been a pan-regional approach to delivering shared materials such as marketing, contractors, funding and learning thereby increasing efficiencies, removing traditional and parochial approaches to the use of resources.
  • 9. The partnership contracted a consortium of energy assessors to allow pan-regional delivery to increase efficiencies. The partnership also works with Green Deal Installers, ensuring the delivery of measures recommended in an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), and drawing down ECO funding, along with ECO directly from one of the ‘big six’ energy companies.
  • 10. Flexibility and ability of the Partnership to meet new/changed national policy priorities halfway through Phase I of the SWI project.
  • 11. Delivery of resources to need rather than within set boundaries. This has required the development of trust, reciprocity and compromise between partners.

RESULTS AND BENEFITS

By project close in September 2016 SBDC GDC will have delivered energy efficiency improvements to 577 homes. Already 574 of these have been delivered, including the solid wall insulation to 423 homes. The following calculations on financial savings to local residents from solid wall insulation have been done using figures from the Energy Saving Trust:

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It should be noted that we have included end of terraces and bungalows within the semi-detached category as this is the nearest equivalent to these property types available. The life time saving of 36 years has been used as this is the lifetime of the measures (internal or external wall insulation) used for calculating payments under the Government’s Energy Company Obligation. A copy of the table can be viewed here.

And using figures from the Energy Saving Trust, these are the savings in emissions of carbon dioxide which have been achieved:

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That is 14,732 tonnes of carbon dioxide saved by householders across the participating LA areas as a result of the project.
In addition the project has and continues to provide social, financial and environmental value in terms of:-

  • a) Keeping residents warm and healthy
  • b) Reducing the burden and cost on health/social welfare
  • c) Reducing residents spend on energy
  • d) Reducing energy use, thereby reducing carbon emissions and local improving air quality for a period of up to 362 years

COMMUNICATION/PARTNERSHIPS

Communications and clarity were central to the timekeeping and delivery of the project, aiding transparency and trust. The NEF website held a central resource for all participating LA communities/residents, with each LA website linking to this resource.

Community engagement has been the lynchpin of the project, and some examples are as follows:-

  • • Visiting mosques in Chesham and in Aylesbury to engage with the local Imams and minority ethnic communities where English may not be their first language.
  • • Working with/delivering through community groups for example Future Wolverton, community group who took on the mantle of door to door engagement with residents, encouraged residents to enter the Show Home competition, who provided prizes to runners up, who supported a community fair to engage with residents and who supported residents through the delivery process. As a result of this partnership 49 private residents decided to proceed with an install. The project also worked directly with other transition towns such as Think! Burnham and Change for Chesham.
  • • Community events also were held in various LA areas such as West Berkshire, Chesham (Townsend community) & Wycombe (hosted by Wycombe Environment Centre). In addition where large scale works were taking place such as Harebreaks Estate and Boundary Way, contractors brought in their own Community Officers who worked with residents directly, providing advice and hand holding.
  • • Of critical importance was the one stop shop phone number covering the whole of the project, and valuable support from NEF.

Delivering scale, innovation, ambition and joint priorities requires clear communications between partners and with, and through communities. Throughout the project we have focussed on delivering a single, clear message.

Partner Communications

Joint LA priorities, together with significant engagement back up from Senior Managers and Members, provided the willingness to proceed as a partnership.
A Project Board including all partners, contractors and project sponsors, meet monthly to discuss process delivery and progress.

Other additional communications take place between the monthly board meetings with project sponsors, contractors and their staff and LA’s, depending on which aspect of the project is being delivered.

On Boundary Way, Watford NEF worked closely with Watford Borough Council, Three Rivers District Council. Thrive Homes (a social housing provider) and the Green Deal Provider, who co-ordinated most of the installs on the estate. Boundary Way was built in the 1960s and 1970s using the “Wimpey no fines” construction method. Approximately half the estate had already benefited from external wall insulation using DECC Fuel Poverty funding, at no cost to the residents. 173 homes, 80 of which were owned by Thrive Homes (a Registered Social Landlord) remained to be done. The aim of the GDC project was to get as many of these remaining properties done as possible, despite this phase of the project not being fully funded.

The communications campaign started in December 2014 with a letter to residents seeking expressions of interest in having a Green Deal Assessment carried out. It was agreed by the partners (who met on a regular basis) that the best way to incentivise this initial interest offer a prize drawer of a hamper to one of the residents expressing interest in an assessment prior to the cut-off date of 19th December. These initial assessments provided the installer with the opportunity to cost the external wall insulation on a number different property types. Following on from this it was then possible to produce a finance illustration for each private customer and to provide Thrive Homes with a cost for insulating the homes owned by them.

In order to make the cost of insulation more affordable to residents each of the two LAs put in substantial amounts of their own funding to help local residents get the work done. The project coordinated with the local resident’s group and held a community event on the 31st March 2015 where residents could ask questions and view samples of the render colour choices available to them. This event was attended by all partners and approximately 40 residents. The installer appointed a Resident Liaison Officer (RLO) who worked from a temporary office on site. The RLO answered resident’s questions and did letter dropping and door knocking to promote the scheme. Ultimately, 154 homes were insulated, representing 89% of the remaining properties.

NEF also worked in partnership with Watford Borough Council to deliver 146 installs of solid wall Harebreaks estate. In each phase NEF worked with the Council, a Green Deal Provider and a Green Deal Installer who appointed an RLO who was again based on the ground and was available to answer resident’s questions and to leaflet.

Notes
The fourteen Local Authorities involved in the project were:

  • South Bucks District Council (Lead Partner)
  • Chiltern District Council
  • Wycombe District Council
  • Aylesbury Vale District Council
  • Vale of White Horse District Council
  • South Oxfordshire District Council
  • Cotswold District Council
  • West Oxfordshire District Council
  • Cherwell District Council
  • Milton Keynes Council
  • Watford Borough Council
  • Three Rivers District Council
  • West Berkshire District Council
  • West Wycombe District Council