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Energy Group

We are pleased to announce that our Energy group is being reconvened from January 2020.

Please see two reports on heating our homes below:

The Energy Group promotes sustainable energy practices through good insulation and use of renewable energy sources. The group organises training events as well as discussion, mutual support and lobbying and is building up research and information resources to lend out as well as the beginnings of a co-operative purchasing and recycling scheme for relevant materials.

Please contact Dinah Dossor for more information (

Tea coffee and nibbles provided. E-mail copies of meeting minutes available upon request.

For previous events and info see our Blog – select the Energy tag…
(please be patient with us whilst we update the minutes below)


Energy Report 1 – John Garrett

Net Zero in Housing
Whichever target date you support, Extinction Rebellion’s 2025 or Theresa May’s 2050, it’s clear we’re not going to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions without big changes to our homes.  And if we live, as many of us do, in solid wall houses built in an age of coal, the challenge is magnified.

The built environment (including much needed new build for our growing population) is responsible for 42% of all UK greenhouse gas emissions, with housing approximately half of that.

Heating our homes is the biggest polluter, at 10% of emissions, a household average of 2.7 tonnes a year.  And that gas combi boiler hanging on our kitchen wall is the biggest culprit.

Emissions from the residential sector have reduced by a relatively low 16% since 1990 compared with an overall reduction of 43.5%, though that does include a quarter new homes.  Most of that residential reduction has come from the steady decarbonisation of electricity supply with the virtual elimination of coal and the growth of renewables, the one great UK success story in the fight against climate change. Grid electricity is now cleaner than gas, and still has a way to go as more and more zero carbon capacity comes on stream.

Alternatives to natural gas

So what can we do?  Let’s look at alternatives to natural gas.  Some could come from district heating schemes powered by biomass or, in a few parts of the country, by geothermal energy.  The bulk, however, has to come from the two options of renewably produced hydrogen and decarbonised electricity.  The conversion of the gas grid to hydrogen and the changes to 23 million sets of internal pipework and appliances is a logistically complex infrastructure upgrade comparable to the transition from town to natural gas in the 1960s, not to mention the additional requirement of creating a huge hydrogen supply industry from scratch.

The government, in its consultation document on The Future Homes Standard, concedes that hydrogen ‘may have a role to play in heating systems of the future’ (page 19), but is clearly planning for the second option of decarbonised electricity, with homes built from 2025 completely disconnected from the gas grid.

Direct electric heating is very straightforward, though much more expensive to run than gas. The best electric option is the heat pump.  These work like fridges in reverse and extract heat from the air, the ground or water into the building.  If your building is already well insulated, you can run your heating system solely at night on an off-peak electricity tariff.   This is how the Ullet Road Eco Offices manages to bring its heating cost to below the price of gas.  Its Air Source heat pump consumes renewable electricity from Good Energy at a night rate of 11.3p/kwh.  Over the winter months, it generates 3kwh of heat for each 1kwh of electricity, bringing the price per unit of heat down to a third of the electricity cost, or 3.76p, below the Good Energy gas price of 4.3p.

Performance at the Eco Offices during Spring and Autumn, when it is used intermittently is not as good, and this is currently being investigated. Selecting and configuring the right type of Heat Pump system is not as straightforward as installing a gas boiler, and a whole building approach together with independent expertise may be required.

However, as heat pumps become the norm, costs will fall, and standard solutions will develop for the different types of houses.

Generating our own renewable heat and power

Unfortunately, the abrupt terminations of a number of green energy schemes since 2015, without adequate and timely replacement, decimated the nascent residential solar industry, and the spread of domestic solar PV and solar thermal has stalled.
There are, however, grounds for optimism.  Installation costs have plummeted, battery technology has advanced and a number of installers known to us have managed to survive through diversification. The likely inclusion of PV for new homes in the Future Homes Standard from 2020 will provide a steady market for them too.

And the re-instatement of an export tariff may well stimulate interest from existing householders.

Insulation, Air tightness and Heat Recovery

Again, these have been affected by government cuts and confusion. Many residents have, however, successfully installed internal and external wall, sub-floor and loft insulation, as well as upgrading windows and doors for air-tightness and double or triple glazing. A smaller number have installed continuous ventilation with heat recovery, especially useful in kitchens and other damp areas. Waste water heat recovery has been mandated for new homes from 2020 under the Future Homes Standard.

Low carbon building standards for new build are on the way

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has published a consultation document on the Future Homes Standard for new homes announced in the Chancellor’s 2019 Spring statement.  They have asked for responses from developers, builders and other construction professionals, property owners and occupiers as well as environmental groups and local authorities by the 10th of January 2020.

They are proposing a 20-31% improvement on building performance compared with the current 2013 building regulations by 2020 and 75-80% by 2025, when all heating systems in new homes will have to be non-fossil fuel.  These are interim solutions only toward the goal of zero net emissions from the building sector by 2050.
They have proposed two options for 2020:

  • a 20% reduction based on fabric alone – air tightness measures, triple glazing and waste water heat recovery, and
  • a 31% reduction for houses and 20% for flats using slightly less stringent fabric measures, plus ‘technologies’’ like solar PV.

Both proposed 2020 standards are still based on the use of gas boilers.

Decarbonising existing buildings

The ministry is planning a second public consultation for existing buildings in the near future, definitely worth contributing to.
Done right, a national retrofit programme could be broadly cost neutral, if tax revenues from business and increased employment, together with healthcare savings from warmer homes are taken into account.  In 2015, Geoff Cunningham from the Transition Liverpool Energy Group and Graeme Moore of the University of Liverpool co-wrote a report costing a national retrofit programme called ‘Going Deep’.

Next steps

We have to drastically reduce our collective greenhouse gas emissions from housing, and it will be much easier if it’s resident and local authority led rather than imposed from above.  It needs to be done on a street-by-street basis to benefit from economies of scale..
As a first step, let’s find out what residents and landlords in our own localities have already done.  Include difficulties and failures as well as successes, and document examples in each area of best practice.  These should then be publicised, and used in the design of the upgrade of similar homes in the area.

Transition Liverpool is setting up a Heat Pump working party, which will contribute to the design of heating systems.
Most people are unaware of what needs to be done to meet the net zero emissions targets. Unfortunately, it’s one thing backing a zero emissions target for someone else to deliver, it’s quite another dealing with the disruption and cost of alterations to your own home, so expect some objections. Involve as many people as possible in the planning.


Energy Report 2

Going Deep.

The Benefits of a Centrally Funded, Nationwide, Deep Retrofit Programme.

A paper by Graeme Moore BSc, MSc. of the University of Liverpool
School of Environmental Science in collaboration with Geoff Cunningham of Calibrate Ltd.

With binding targets to reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2050 enshrined in the 2008 Climate Change Act, the UK Government must take the opportunity to achieve a significant proportion of this figure by investing heavily in energy efficiency improvements across the housing stock, which currently contributes 26% of the nation’s emissions. What is proposed in this report is that a Government funded programme of Deep Retrofits is carried out, achieving 80% reductions in emissions from homes, by working to the EnerPHit standard (which champions insulation, draft proofing and ventilation). It is estimated that this would cost in the region of £630 billion, with costs averaging £30,000 per dwelling across 21 million eligible homes. Through such a programme, the 2.28 million people suffering from fuel poverty would be targeted initially, with the issue being alleviated altogether by 2030.  Other benefits include significant tax income for the Treasury, job creation, savings in NHS expenditure, the expansion of the nation’s retrofit industry, the wider economy being boosted and extra disposable income for every bill payer across the country. This report estimates that in terms of emissions reduction targets, this programme would reduce total energy consumption levels by 23.3% in comparison to current usage. Therefore despite large headline costs, particularly in times of austerity, the implications of not acting in the short term may have astronomical financial implications in the long term, with this proposal being promoted as an investment with added value, rather than a cost with no payback.

The Proposal
Across the United Kingdom, a recurring household routine follows the pattern of turning on the central heating when the home becomes cold. This short term resolution alleviates the problem and has been the dominant perception for generations as to the solution heating a cold home. Yet this logic has become unsustainable for the long term. UK homeowners currently collectively waste £21 billion every year heating draughty houses and in line with sustainability and efficiency thinking, perceptions have to change. The question is no longer framed around finding cheaper energy sources to heat our homes, but how to prevent our homes from becoming cold in the first place.
Looking into the future, the United Kingdom has legally binding emissions targets enshrined in the 2008 Climate Change Act. Specifically, to reduce carbon emissions (CO2 is the principal greenhouse gas emitted through human activity worldwide) by 80% (against 1990 levels) by 2050. Within the United Kingdom, 44% of CO2 emissions come from buildings, with 26% coming specifically from domestic dwellings (National Refurbishment Centre, 2012). This report will focus on how best to reduce the carbon emissions from this 26% proportion in line with the 80% reduction target through energy efficiency measures. This reports proposal will form only part of what will need to be a sustained policy commitment to reduce emissions not only in energy supply and consumption, but also across transport, agriculture and business in order to achieve the 80% reduction goal. There is an existing level of understanding to this end within Whitehall already, with the 2050 Pathways Calculator (available online) allowing members of the public to use real scientific data to plan a ‘route’ towards achieving 80% reductions by 2050 through forecasting future scenarios. The Calculator was released as part of a wider attempt to engage the public in line with the Government’s commitment to CO2 reduction in the long term. With this 2050 deadline looming in the coming decades however, action needs to be taken sooner rather than later and at a national rather than localised scale.

Running parallel to the issue of energy efficiency across the UK’s housing stock is the human side of the problem, fuel poverty. Around 2.28 million people are living in fuel poverty across the UK (DECC, 2014), facing tough decisions as to whether they can afford to heat their homes to comfortable levels or if essential purchases such as food have to take precedence financially. In such cases, it is often heating the home which is regarded as the non-essential, resulting in a significant proportion of the population, young and old, living in cold conditions and suffering from the subsequent health and social problems. The issue of fuel poverty appears on the political agenda during the harsh winter months every year, yet for those living through it, it is an unavoidable reality of everyday life that could be eradicated so easily through a state funded energy efficiency programme.

The Answer

Changing perceptions of homeowners and politicians around what is the best way to heat a home is vital in educating why energy efficiency is so important to the UK achieving its CO2 reduction targets. Many homes nationwide have installed loft or cavity wall insulation, double glazing or an energy efficient boiler as part of individual measure retrofit. Yet installing one or two of these measures in isolation will have a limited impact both on fuel bills and emissions.

Successive UK Governments have struggled to balance the competing strains of the energy trilemma (energy cost, security of supply and sustainability) with no administration achieving success in all three under the same policy. However this could be achieved through a national programme of deep retrofit, funded through Central Government. Deep retrofit means using basic physics to reduce the energy needs of a home.  If you insulate, draft proof, and ventilate with a heat recovery system, then the heat requirement is drastically reduced to the extent of reducing space heating energy needs by at least 80%.

In this report, a discussion will look into the finer details of how such a programme could be implemented. Perhaps most importantly in political circles at least, financing the plan will be debated first. How the scheme can be partly paid for in terms of tax revenues, savings in NHS expenditure and the subsequent economic boost of cutting energy bills and igniting associated retrofit industries across the UK will all be presented. Subsequently, the finer points of what the programme would entail in terms of the benefits it would provide (see Figure 1 for a selection) will be analysed, with recommendations made in regards to what steps should be made in the short term in regard to organisation and quality control.

Figure 1 – The multiple benefits of energy efficiency improvements (IEA, 2014).

The Cost

In terms of calculating the overall cost, firstly the number of homes that will fall under the programme has to be considered. Of the existing housing stock within the UK, around 21 million homes fit the criteria for deep retrofits (calculated from the current stock of around 26 million homes taking into account an annual replacement rate (with Zero Carbon new builds mandated from 2016) of around 0.5% up to 2050).
However coming up with an estimate cost to deep retrofit a single house is a challenge. Firstly, the housing stock is split between different dwelling types including flats, detached houses, semi-detached houses and bungalows, which will require differing levels of investment. Although case studies exist that put exact costs on such works, these are often only single dwellings. No schemes of any significant scale has ever been attempted or completed to the standards necessary to base a cost estimate upon. Therefore, for the purposes of this proposal, two examples will be used to approximate what a realistic estimate price per home would be. Firstly, the Sustainable Housing Action Partnerships (SHAP) ‘Beyond Decent Homes’ Standard, suggested that at a scale of 1,000 properties being deep retrofitted, between £16,000 (on easy to treat flats) and £34,000 (on semi-detached properties) would be an achievable spend to attain 80% reduction targets (URBED, 2011). Set against this theoretical example, comes evidence from the Carbon Co-op, who deep retrofitted 9 houses (mix of mid-terrace, end- terrace and semi-detached) across Greater Manchester, with costs ranging from £25,000 to £60,000, with an approximate average spend of £40,500. This project, at a much smaller scale, shows that for such a sum, similar reduction targets can be achieved. Neither example includes the economies of scale that could be achieved when millions of homes are involved and taking advantage of specialist local supply chains (rather than importing) within a thriving UK deep retrofit industry as this report will propose.

As such, when bringing these factors together, considering the report from SHAP and the case study example of Carbon Co-op, the average cost of deep retrofitting a home that will be proposed as both realistic and achievable for the programme is £30,000. With the sheer scale of housing numbers involved and the investment required to achieve the target, the average cost may fall below this as the deep retrofit industry develops and larger economies of scale are achieved. Yet being realistic, such falls in costs may only be achieved in the coming years as the programme develops and as such the £30,000 per house figure will form the basis and roll out cost presented in this proposal. From this figure, equated against the approximate 21 million homes to be involved, it can be calculated that the programme in its entirety will cost in the region of £630 billion. Spread over the remaining 35 years before the legally binding 80% emissions reduction target has to be reached and this equates to an average investment per annum of £18 billion. It is proposed that this finance would be borrowed, at an interest rate of say 4%.  A project of this scale would require a slow start up, as the current UK retrofit industry is not yet mature enough to handle a large scale roll out. This would be reflected in the start-up costs also, with initial investment far below the £18 billion per annum figure, yet this would increase year on year to keep up with the accelerated expansion rate of the delivery of deep retrofits. This incremental increase in investment, would also ensure that the loan interest repayments could be covered from year one from the tax takings, benefit savings and associated increased economic activity. The average net cost to the tax payer is under £10 billion p.a. which is reduced further if balanced against their spending on fuel. Of course the savings go on for the lifetime of the housing stock and start to exceed annual costs around year 25.

In practice, initially the majority of focus would lie on training up the necessary numbers of certified deep retrofit installers required to a level where the industry could begin its initial roll out in earnest without being stretched at the expense of quality. At the same time, the industry would continue to grow in terms of certified installers, expertise and value for money. From this stage, the Government would set annual targets for the number of deep retrofits to be completed, with continued education helping to change perceptions across the country as to what is the best way is to heat a home.

Benefits to Central Government

The benefits to Central Government of the investment programme are both significant and wide reaching. Despite the initial £630 billion cost seeming in direct contrast to the austerity across the board of recent times, it must be remembered that this programme represents long term investment into the future and not simply a cost with no added value. It should be kept in mind that as Lord Stern rightly concluded in his 2006 review on climate change, acting on emissions now is cheaper than dealing with the impacts of climate change in the future.
Firstly, the revenues gained from VAT, Income Tax and Corporation Tax will be significant. VAT is effectively neutral if the Government funds the project but is included in our figures for the purposes of clarity. VAT represents 20% of costs, so from the initial numbers quoted earlier it can be equated that this will amount to around £6,000 per house, meaning at the scale of 21 million home this sum could total £126 billion for the Treasury. Income Tax gained through this programme would represent a new revenue stream for the Treasury. The creation of an estimated 125,000 additional long term jobs (UKGBC, 2014) in the deep retrofit industry would represent a potential Income Tax revenue (based on approximately £5,000 per person, per annum) to the Treasury of £625 million per annum. Although it would take a considerable period of time for the employment levels in deep retrofit to reach these levels, it is reasonable to expect these 125,000 additional jobs to be in place by 2030 at the latest if the UK is serious about meeting its 2050 targets. Set against this period from 2030-2050, this would represent £12.5 billion revenue, discounting the intermediate revenue generated as the number of jobs reaches the 125,000 in the years 2015-2030. An additional bonus within these 125,000 workers will come from the fact that many of these jobs are relatively low skilled and locally situated and as such can become the ideal employment opportunity for those previously unemployed or underemployed. As such, a significant proportion of the 125,000 will be coming off state funded unemployment benefits, representing a savings turnaround from those previously on job seekers allowance, to now being in receipt of their Income Tax and increased VAT through consumption. Alongside this, Corporation Tax paid to the Treasury will increase. With the deep retrofit industry expanding, it is likely that new companies will emerge alongside the expanding current UK organisations to take advantage of the scale at which work will be required nationwide. Corporation Tax will be paid on all taxable profits, with a significant sum being gained by the Treasury, and while hard to equate within the confines of this report, it would likely fall into the many millions per annum once the industry reaches its nationwide scale.

Secondly, the programme would help to eradicate fuel poverty, vastly reducing the financial burden on the NHS of associated cold related conditions. Fuel poverty in the UK is measured by the Low Income High Costs classification, which terms a household to be in fuel poverty if fuel costs are above average and if subsequent residual income falls below the official poverty line (DECC, 2014). With 2.28 million homes defined as being in fuel poverty under these terms, the scale of this problem has become an issue high on the political agenda. For policy makers, the three issues that are perceived to determine whether a household is suffering from fuel poverty are income, fuel bills and energy consumption (through both building efficiency and lifestyle of occupants). Yet high fuel bills and energy consumption can often be caused by the home itself. As recent research by DECC shows, ‘households living in the least energy efficient dwellings are more likely to be fuel poor and live in more severe fuel poverty compared to households occupying more energy efficient properties – highlighting the importance of improving the energy efficiency in reducing fuel poverty’ (DECC, 2014:43).

Simply living in fuel poverty however does not appropriately reflect the human consequences of inhabiting such conditions. The health implications of living in under heated dwellings for sustained periods of time can be serious, and as such, particularly in the winter months, the NHS sees an increase in numbers of those requiring its services. ‘NHS expenditure has been reported to rise by 2 per cent in the cold months. Age UK has calculated that the annual cost to the NHS in England of cold homes is £1.36 billion’ (UKGBC, 2014:7).  In particular, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases can deteriorate in such cold conditions, with children and older generations the most vulnerable. If homes suffering from fuel poverty were targeted as among the first recipients of deep retrofits, then it could quickly be eradicated completely. If this could be achieved by 2030, then the annual £1.36 billion bill to the NHS would be cut entirely, representing a saving for the Treasury. Set against the 2030-2050 timeline, this would represent an overall saving of £27.2 billion. Nonetheless beyond the cost in monetary value, it should be noted that the ‘UK has one of the highest excess winter death levels in Europe despite our moderate climate’ (UKGBC, 2014:7), indicating that for some, fuel poverty can end up being a matter of life and death. Drastically reducing the number of excess winter deaths must become a priority, with prevention better than any cure the NHS can provide. Such deaths also affect the families and friends of those who suffer, and on a social level, eliminating this issue will be seen as money well spent, securing their own peace of mind about their loved ones. For the NHS itself, there is little that it can do to avert such health issues of those living in fuel poverty, yet action by the state could greatly reduce this financial pressure on an already strained health service.

The economic benefit to the Treasury of the nationwide alleviation of fuel poverty could be significant but is hard to quantify. Households living in fuel poverty spend significant amounts of their earnings on heating their homes, averaging £1,000 per annum (DECC, 2015) or close to this amount until they choose to ‘go cold’. In a deep retrofitted home this number could be expected to drop significantly to around £200 per annum (with an 80% efficiency reduction). With a potential £800 ‘extra’ in the pockets of those formerly living in fuel poverty, this money can be spent on items including 20% VAT, representing an incentive for the state to gain the additional revenue through deep retrofits nationwide. With 2.28 million homes currently suffering from fuel poverty, an extra £800 per home could result in £1.824billion extra annually spent in local economies across the country. This extra £800 would be a significant boost to those formerly living in fuel poverty, positively affecting their quality of life and as such, as a political promise, the alleviation of fuel poverty could potentially be a significant vote winner for a party who chose to back the plans. Of course savings apply even more to those above the fuel poverty threshold and this report has adopted a rather conservative figure of £1,000 per household. Over the course of the project, in terms of reductions in fuel bills, savings of £292 billion (for an average £1,000 reduction in fuel bills per house, per annum) would be achieved by the public, with a high proportion of this new disposable income again being spent in local economies nationwide.

In terms of identifying the amount that it is proposed to be invested in future power stations, the recently sanctioned new nuclear power station, Hinkley Point C is an illustrative example. It was recently revealed by the EU that this will cost £24.5 billion to build, generating 6% of the entire UK energy supply upon its 2023 completion. Yet in 2012, DECC equated that the energy consumption of the UK housing stock to be 29.1% of the entire total which was measured at 502 Twh (terawatt-hours) (DECC, 2013). However if, as is proposed in this report, the stock can have its efficiency improved by 80%, then energy consumption for the UK housing stock would fall to 100.4 Twh, with energy consumption overall falling by 23.3%. This figure is the headline saving from increasing energy efficiency by 80%, representing more than a quarter of the savings needed to reach the 2050 emissions target. Suddenly, the question surrounding future investment in power stations takes a different course. How can a nuclear power station that can generate 6% of the UK’s total energy supply compare to an efficiency scheme that will reduce consumption levels by almost a quarter? This point highlights the wider issue of set political perceptions that place investment in increasing energy supply over investment in reducing consumption via energy efficiency measures. By taking the latter course, reducing consumption results directly in a lessening need for generating such high levels of supply, representing long term investment over short term thinking.

With 23.3% of energy consumed in the UK now saved through deep retrofitting the existing housing stock, the UK can gain back a significant proportion of its energy security. With decreased demand for energy supply, the UK becomes less reliant on countries such as Russia (who could be termed politically unpredictable) for imported gas. Although monetising what this increased security of energy supply is worth is beyond the scope of this report, becoming more self-sufficient in terms of energy supply could become vital in future decades, and prevents the UK from ever being held to ransom if import markets become volatile.

With the scale of this project, a large increase of business for accredited green manufacturers and service providers currently found in the UK will occur. Having the necessary workload required to invest in increasing capacity, will eventually lead to exports across the continent and worldwide to countries who have yet to begin energy efficiency programmes. This will come as a relief to many currently within the industry, as recently big insulation manufacturers have been scaling back their investment in the UK because of current green policies failures. Indicative of this is that in a time when efficiency has been promoted by the Government more than ever before, the building insulation market actually contracted by 22% in 2013 (Washan, Stenning and Goodman, 2014). Vital to the success of deep retrofitting at scale is that the manufacturers and service providers grow and become more self-sufficient, relying less on imported materials and goods as they increasingly produce their own, leading to both a reduction in costs and an increase in tax take for the Treasury.

There are increasing calls in political circles mirroring what the energy efficiency sector has long been looking to achieve. Namely, that energy efficiency is granted national infrastructure priority status and can subsequently benefit from increased political attention and most importantly, finance. By securing national infrastructure status, energy efficiency and deep retrofit within it will benefit from a Treasury investment pot that could make a significant difference to the eventual success of the proposal. ‘The Treasury estimates that total infrastructure investment totalled £47 billion each year from 2010/11 to 2013/14’ (Rhodes, 2014:1). Alongside this, private finance will also be easier to secure as foreign investment becomes a more prominent and lucrative factor into the future. The reason for this is that UK infrastructure (once assigned such status) is seen as a very attractive investment for global companies. This is due to the UK having a stable risk and return profile, clear property rights for investors, world class regulation, transparent policy development and strong financial markets. With private sector finance now representing the majority of UK national infrastructure investment overall, if energy efficiency was assigned such status then it would be seen as a legitimate and trusted investment for private financiers worldwide.

A decision on national infrastructure status may be forthcoming soon, with momentum building in political and industry circles. In the run up to the 2015 General Election, twenty charities, environmental groups and trade associations including the likes of the Energy Bill Revolution, Energy Saving Trust, National Housing Federation and UK Green Building Council worked together to promote energy efficiency and lobby political parties to include commitments in their manifestos. They also produced a report alongside this entitled ‘A housing stock fit for the future: Making home energy efficiency a national infrastructure priority.’ Shortly after this on the eve of 2015 General Election, Ed Milliband promised that if the Labour Party came to power that energy efficiency would be assigned national infrastructure status. More recently in June, the Scottish Government announced that improving the energy efficiency of Scotland’s homes would be designated a national infrastructure priority going forward. With perceptions changing and policy commitments beginning to be made, the time for action on a larger scale may be imminent.

In terms of benefits then, it can be seen that the proposal has additional savings beyond the level of easily quantifiable monetary gains of tax takings, benefit savings and NHS savings. This proposal has added value through the economic impact of eradicating fuel poverty, creating new domestic and export markets, reducing power demand by almost a quarter, increasing fuel security, the value of potential infrastructure priority stats and through bringing emission targets within reach. Even by placing conservative estimate figures on to what some of these ‘added value’ factors would be worth, it is reasonable to expect that at least half of the initial £630 billion will be accumulated through the benefits to Central Government as analysed above.

The Proposal

As Kelly, Pollitt and Crawford-Brown (2012:4) state, ‘one of the first steps required to meet future emissions related targets is to ensure a robust measurement and certification procedure in its place.’ Current Government energy saving initiatives such as the Green Deal and Energy Company Obligations (ECOs) utilise Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) when reviewing a buildings energy efficiency. Yet the problem with this is that EPCs are inherently flawed as a measuring tool for building efficiency. EPCs use the Reduced Data Standard Assessment Procedure (RdSAP) as their basis for existing buildings as relevant to this proposal. RdSAP ‘is an indication of energy consumption across huge populations of buildings with similar general characteristics, rather than being specific to a particular building.’ (Kelly, Pollitt and Crawford-Brown, 2012:29). RdSAP, despite being backed by Government, is fatally flawed. Specific weaknesses of EPCs when used to predict building energy use are that it’s treatment of insulation is limited, of draft proofing is rudimentary, and ventilation with heat recovery is completely absent as an option. As such, this proposal intends to use a different assessment calculation to achieve the precision of efficiency that will be required in order to reach the legally binding carbon emission reduction targets.

Passive House is an internationally recognised and respected standard that accurately predicts energy usage. Under this standard, the vast majority of work is put into making dwellings as energy efficient as possible, rather than looking for ways to generate additional energy. This is based on the argument that reducing consumption is the most sustainable way to live, promoting resiliency against energy price fluctuations. Houses built to the Passive House standard require only small amounts of energy for space heating and cooling. It has recently been announced that Dublin is set to make the Passive House standard mandatory as a part of its development plan for 2016-2022, and despite objections from the Department of the Environment, this shows a huge commitment and belief in the principles Passive House promotes. A small (but increasing) number of houses are built to this standard every year in the UK and have been measured as performing to the levels predicted, showcasing a standard that can be trusted to produce reliable results. EnerPHit, developed in 2010, is the retrofit equivalent of Passive House with slightly relaxed standards to reflect the reality of not being able to change the basic building form when retrofitting.

The key components of EnerPHit are the need to insulate, draft proof and ventilate a dwelling so that activity within the home provides all the space heat required. From these principles a reduction in energy use can often surpass 80% due to the significant drop in heating requirements. The key to the scale of these reductions however is the fact that each of the components work together as a system. For instance, by just insulating a property, the majority of the heat is lost to draft. By just insulating and draft proofing without ventilation, air quality will be significantly reduced with condensation and associated health issues ensuing. Yet with all three components working interdependently, the EnerPHit standard ensures significantly improved comfort levels, structural durability and energy efficiency for homes. The real advantage of EnerPHit is that it produces predictable energy usage measures. Its effectiveness can be accurately measured and tested, which are the exact qualities needed for this project.

The EnerPHit standard has already been endorsed on the UK political scene. The Liberal Democrats in their 2013 policy paper ‘Green Growth and Green Jobs – Transition to a Zero Carbon Britain’ had promised (if elected in 2015) to bring all existing homes up to the EnerPhit standard by 2050 in a one off programme as a part of a revitalised Green Deal. This commitment seems like the surest indication yet that the political perceptions are changing and there is an increasing realisation of the potential benefits a national deep retrofit project could provide with EnerPHit as its chosen standard.

The policy paper also highlighted a well-documented flaw in the current Green Deal, that retrofitting needs to be deep or ‘whole-house’ and that by only installing single measures at a time as is currently advocated, the long term legally binding targets of the Climate Change Act become more difficult to achieve. As such, when comparing the key components of EnerPHit, the need to insulate, draft proof and ventilate together to form an interrelated system for the highest efficiency levels, in comparison to the single measures provided through the Green Deal and ECO, there is a stark contrast to the message being promoted. Fawcett, Killip and Janda (2013:340) have termed the contrast ‘the energy-saving continuum’ and it is a battle of perceptions on how best to increase the energy efficiency of a home now and into the future. Changing these perceptions towards deep retrofit as the solution will take time and occur as a process of learning from trial and error. For instance, the UK Government worked hard to promote the calculated savings of installing measures such as new boilers and loft insulation, yet evidence quickly proved that without an entire ‘whole-house’ retrofit, the efficiency impact was not as high as was being portrayed, leading to the Energy Saving Trust having to downgrade savings claims.

Despite its benefits however, EnerPHit does have one major problem, not to do with the method itself, but its application to a large scale project. The required numbers of certified practitioners simply do not exist in the UK at the present time. Despite being internationally respected, the standard has yet to find sufficient traction in the UK, in part because of the Government’s insistence on sticking with its existing standards and building regulations. Therefore, EnerPHit only exists in the UK on a very small scale, with the average building trade worker knowing little about its practical application. The expansion of the domestic deep retrofit industry will depend on the education of this workforce into the knowledge, expertise and skills of EnerPHit. However all is not lost, in that the standard is a relatively simple concept which is suitable for teaching to current and new builders alike.

Remaining Challenges

In terms of organising the programme therefore, it is clear that EnerPHit is the required retrofit standard to ensure high quality and predictable outcomes. With differing disciplines and numerous contractors working on deep retrofits, it is vital that all involved are qualified and accountable to a higher power if standards are not met. An accredited certification body would ensure that all installers involved are trained in, and working at the EnerPHit standard to ensure continuity, quality and a high level of predictability. With this standard, as previously discussed, a large amount of training would have to take place in order for the standard to become universal across the UK sector. As this training takes place, the roll out of the project can begin at a small scale, with the number of qualified practitioners matching the expansion rate of the programme year on year. The extra costs for this training are balanced by the benefits in early years. In terms of which homes will be targeted first, homes suffering from fuel poverty would receive the initial wave of deep retrofitting refurbishments. Although many of these homes would require above average levels of work due to the majority being amongst the poorest in terms of efficiency standards, logistics costs could be reduced by tackling the worst affected areas on a street by street basis. To end fuel poverty in the UK as a starting point for the project would be a huge achievement and calling card, gaining much needed political support and momentum to help to change the perceptions of the nation on how best to heat a home.

By the Government committing to the proposal, and through departments working together holistically, carbon emission targets will be met, fuel poverty alleviated, British industry promoted, jobs created, NHS expenditure on winter related illnesses cut, the economy boosted and more disposable income will be in every bill payer’s pocket. If energy efficiency as a whole can achieve this, then the case for deep retrofitting as its anchor policy must be championed. This report should serve as a starting point in terms of building momentum and garnering increasing and influential support for such a project. The cumulative benefits of this proposal cannot be ignored and it is now up to the Government to take up the mantle and assign the relevant funding and infrastructure priority status to energy efficiency, as deep retrofitting can be the solution to a plethora of their problems.

Post Script by Geoff Cunningham . M.D. Calibrate Ltd

How to spend £600 billion and still come out ahead!
The money is provided by tax payers and averages about £18 billion a year
The same taxpayers currently collectively waste £21 billion every year heating draughty houses.
Tax on the activity and savings in NHS spending bring the bill down to more like £9 billion a year.
A State spend of net £330 billion returns £290 billion to householders over the 35 year period and continues to reduce what they would otherwise spend by £21 billion every additional year.
Fuel Poverty affects over 2 million people who are connected to many more who are concerned about them. The eradication of Fuel Poverty  would be seen as money well spent by most.
Throw in Lower Energy needs, greater Energy Security and a new Retrofit Industry with many job opportunities and what is not to like?
We have used the best estimates and tried not to over-egg benefits or underestimate costs but if you have better figures then please send them to me …
Early responses highlight
Number of Cancer deaths from Radon gas (1,100 p.a.) reduced with effective ventilation
Extra Jobs number likely to be nearer to 300,000
Effect of reduced fuel imports on the balance of payments significant
Public acceptance of Retrofit not there yet
The removal of Zero Carbon Homes and other targets yet to be factored in.

DECC. (2013). United Kingdom housing energy fact file 2013.
DECC. (2014). Annual Fuel Poverty Statistics Report.
DECC. (2015). Cutting the cost of keeping warm: A fuel poverty strategy for England.
Fawcett T, Killip G, Janda K (2013) Building Expertise: Identifying policy gaps and new ideas in housing eco-renovation in the UK and France. ECEE Summer Study Proceedings 2013.
IEA (2014). Capturing the Multiple Benefits of Energy Efficiency. OECD/IEA, Paris.
Kelly, S., Pollitt, M.G. and Crawford-Brown. (2012). Building performance evaluation and certification in the UK: a critical review of SAP? Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews. 16 (9). pp6861–6878.
National Refurbishment Centre. (2012). Refurbishing the Nation – Gathering the evidence.
Rhodes, C. (2014). Infrastructure Priority. House of Commons Note.
UK Green Building Council. (2014). A housing stock fit for the future: Making home energy efficiency a national infrastructure priority.
URBED. (2011). Community Green Deal: Developing a model to benefit whole communities – Executive summary and Key Findings.
Washan, P., Stenning, J. and Goodman, M. (201 Building the Future: Economic and fiscal impacts of making homes energy efficient.





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