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CCC 2018 Progress Report: UK can learn from Energiesprong whole-house retrofit

Energiesprong’s influence is clearly visible within the context of a powerful 267-page report to the UK parliament published by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) in June 2018. The report says that the UK can learn from Energiesprong whole-house retrofits including the first UK pilot in Nottingham. In this article we look at some of the committee’s concerns and show how Energiesprong is tackling these head-on.  

In its report, Reducing UK emissions – 2018 Progress Report to Parliament, the CCC recommends ways the UK can cut carbon emissions by at least 80% of 1990 levels by 2050 as required by the UK’s 2008 Climate Change Act. Buildings accounted for 19% of UK greenhouse gas emissions in 2017 and over three quarters of these emissions were from homes. So, one key area for emission reductions is the UK’s older housing stock.

Whilst the decarbonisation of the electricity supply has kept the UK on track, carbon reduction initiatives like Zero Carbon Homes and grants and incentives have been abandoned. So, the report recommends stopping the chopping and changing of policy. It also suggests committing to effective regulation and strict enforcement.

Aspiration must turn to action

The UK government published its Clean Growth Strategy in October 2017. Prime Minister, Theresa May, then followed up by issuing a 'Grand Challenge' to the construction industry in May 2018. The challenge? To halve both the energy use of new buildings and the cost of renovating existing buildings to a similar standard, while increasing quality and safety by 2030.

The CCC report applauds the UK government’s aspirations, but argues that sustained supportive policies and effective regulation must follow. It goes on to say that “The UK could learn from approaches that combine finance for heating and efficiency measures and the unit-cost reductions achieved through Energiesprong whole-house retrofits in the Netherlands, particularly for homes with similar build and features”.

Energiesprong UK is adapting the Dutch approach for the UK and developing a volume market that can deliver net zero energy retrofit financed by energy and maintenance savings, without public subsidy. Formerly hard to heat homes are transformed into desirable, comfortable and affordable homes for everyone, for life.

In the Netherlands Energiesprong installation times have been reduced to as little as one week with residents still at home. Efficiencies of scale, through offsite assembly and automation, are enabling cost reductions. The second-generation Factory Zero energy module will cost 35% less thanks to increasing orders and a more compact design. The energy module typically integrates a heat pump, hot water tank, PV inverter, mechanical ventilation unit and monitoring equipment. Orders have grown from 350 in 2018 to 1500 for 2019.

Rewards should be outcomes-based

According to the CCC report, poor enforcement and low construction standards have resulted in leaky, substandard homes in the UK, resulting in wasted energy, higher bills and high emissions. The Hackitt Review goes so far as to conclude that 'what is being designed is not what is being built'.

To close the ‘performance gap’ the CCC report calls on stricter enforcement that is ‘outcomes-based, places risk with those able to control it [and] provides transparent information and a clear audit trail'.

Much stricter enforcement would help ensure that carbon reductions associated with existing policies and standards are actually being realised. The report recommends that heavy penalties should extend beyond fire safety to building regulations. It also calls for reform of monitoring metrics so certificates reflect the real-world energy performance of buildings rather than modelled performance.

Energiesprong's requirement for a 30-year performance guarantee and monitoring of actual energy performance is the clear forerunner of this approach. Contracting on guaranteed outcomes drives higher build quality. Net zero energy performance isn’t just expected – it is guaranteed for 30 years.

For the Nottingham pilot mentioned in the report the solution provider had a strong incentive to install a solution that will deliver comfort to the required level for the long term. Residents were involved in selecting preferred options from design to procurement. Real-time performance monitoring will help occupants, housing and solution providers to monitor and maintain performance.

New build must be future-proofed

On new build the report says that a key principle should be future-proofing, so avoiding the need for expensive retrofitting later. Financial and reputational incentives should be aligned to focus on 'as-built' performance, rewarding high quality workmanship. Delivering near zero energy retrofits will need higher standards, improved skills and nationwide training. Competency in procurement will also be required.

Energiesprong net zero energy retrofit and urban infill (new) homes are future-proofed and 2050 ready. On-site renewable energy systems will provide for most of the heating, hot water and electricity needs of these homes.

Low carbon home improvements must be made

In its indicators for carbon reduction in buildings the CCC report projects the need for a 14% reduction in energy demand for heat to 2030 coupled with a move to a quarter of that demand being met by low carbon sources.

For this it estimates that 2 million solid walls will need to have been insulated. Just 16,000 solid wall installations were complete in 2017. It also suggests 2.5m heat pumps will be needed in homes. Just 18,000 units were sold in the UK in 2016 (160,000 are already installed). In both cases much faster progress is needed.

Energiesprong's approach is technology and company agnostic.  A high-level Performance Specification requires >80% improvement to fabric thermal performance, plus renewable energy generation and heating equipment required to achieve annual net zero energy consumption.  Indoor temperature, air quality and noise levels are specified, and disconnection from the gas network. It’s an holistic low carbon solution.

Energiesprong is an answer

The Nottingham Energiesprong pilot was made possible by European Union funding from REMOURBAN and expertise from the Horizon 2020 Transition Zero project. 

Energiesprong is working with social housing providers to create early volume demand for retrofits. This demand will enable contractors to invest and to industrialise their processes to reduce costs.

To find out more about the Energiesprong movement in the UK visit