A greener deal for local authorities

The Energy Saving Trust has always believed that being more energy efficient in the home is by far the most cost effective way of lowering our demand for energy and at the same time lowering energy bills. Saving energy – not wasting it – makes total sense.
     
A big part of saving energy is installing the right energy efficiency measures in the home. This is especially relevant in the UK which has one of the leakiest housing stocks in Europe.
    
Millions of UK homes could benefit from investment in insulation, windows and heating systems, with the government-backed Green Deal being a scheme that seeks to increase the number of energy efficiency measures installed in homes across the UK. Instead of paying for the full cost of the measures up-front, these will be paid back through the savings on the energy bill. Despite the scheme being mainly focused on industry driving consumer demand for energy efficiency measures, local authorities could still play a vital role in making the Green Deal work for households in their areas that could benefit the most.

Forging partnerships
Through the Green Deal, there are great opportunities for local authorities to help reduce energy bills for local residents and businesses. In getting involved with the Green Deal the recommended model for local authorities involves forming partnerships with others, such as local businesses, to help successfully deliver the scheme. Indeed this is an approach favoured by the majority of local authorities, as they establish vital relationships with installers and businesses looking to install and offer Green Deal measures to the public.
    
However, ensuring that all the strategic planning comes from local authorities will be important. No-one knows local areas better than the local authorities; therefore this knowledge and insight could prove to be vital to businesses trying to establish what homes could benefit most from measures offered under the Green Deal.
    
To maximise the impact of the Green Deal and energy efficiency in general it’s vital that energy efficiency measures are targeted at homes that need them the most. This is where the importance of local authorities in delivering the Green Deal comes into play. Many local authorities will have data on their housing stock, which can be used to identify the homes most in need of energy efficiency upgrades.

Identifying those most in need
The fact of the matter is that some households need home energy efficiency investment more than others. However, finding these households most in need is not always simple. There’s a need to focus on co-ordinating data from local authorities and other organisations with additional insight to target the coldest and most expensive to heat homes, along with the most vulnerable households

Alongside targeting the right households, a relevant message in communicating the benefits of energy efficiency is important.
    
This means not developing a “one-size fits all” approach in delivering the Green Deal and energy efficiency but understanding each individual household in the housing stock, whether they could benefit from the Green Deal and which energy efficiency measures will benefit them the most.
    
To make all of this a reality, there’s a need to engage the local trade who will be delivering energy efficiency and installing the measures in homes. Many households will use local tradespeople and SMEs to carry out home improvement works.
    
According to our consumer survey, households appear to be far more trusting of the local tradesperson above anyone else. 60 per cent said they would take on a trusted local business to install energy efficiency measures in their home. If local authorities engage the local tradesperson then it can be a highly effective way at encouraging take up and investment in energy efficiency.
    
At the same time there’s a wider opportunity to drive local economic growth and the generation of jobs and skills through supporting the local trade. Rather than looking at themselves to deliver the Green Deal, local authorities might achieve more through empowering the local tradesperson and SME to sell energy efficiency.
    
With the right training and knowledge, local tradespeople can be more confident about offering energy efficiency measures to homeowners, not only leading to increased sales, but also leading to households that are more receptive to the potential benefits of energy efficiency.

The request initiative
The REQUEST project that we undertook with the trade found that 75 per cent of tradespeople felt more confident about offering energy efficiency measures to homeowners when they were in a position to provide relevant energy saving advice.
    
The project also reaffirmed the idea that information about energy efficiency needed to be communicated to homeowners at the earliest possible moment of a retrofit or refurbishment project. Giving homeowners extra time to save and allocate the money. This supports our ‘Trigger Point’ research that 85 per cent of households would extend their budget by ten per cent to pay for the necessary energy saving improvements.
    
More importantly, the REQUEST project went a long way in highlighting the vital role that industry will have in driving consumer demand for energy efficiency, especially if tradespeople have sufficient and confident knowledge.  
    
Other, less direct ways of getting involved in the scheme involve local authorities promoting the Green Deal through their local channels. There are concerns that the public is not receptive to the Green Deal and how it could help them make their homes more energy efficient. However, local authorities can assist by communicating this information to those living locally, perhaps communicating the Green Deal in a way that is applicable and relevant to the local area.  

Council involvement
The role of local authorities in the Green Deal is vital, with a level of involvement from local authorities being required to help deliver the scheme. There are numerous ways that this can be achieved but the focus has to be on empowering local trade and industry to drive public demand for energy efficiency.
    
This could be achieved through providing local housing stock data and insight to support the delivery of the scheme or training and support to local tradespeople to install energy efficiency measures and deliver energy saving advice. Essentially the Green Deal is designed to lead consumer demand for energy efficiency measures through industry, so local authorities will need to form partnerships with local businesses to make this happen.
    
The opportunities under the Green Deal are there for local authorities – it’s up to them to get involved and work out how they can make the scheme work for them and their area.

Further information
www.energysavingtrust.org.uk

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