Every home counts

9th February 2017

Istock 620704906 fmt

Related Topics

Related tags

  • Management/saving ,
  • Business & Industry ,
  • Built environment ,
  • Construction


Bethan Moseley

IEMA Fellow Paul Reeve scrutinises the Bonfield review on improving the energy efficiency of UK homes after the axing of the Green Deal

The words ‘green’ and ‘deal’ are synonymous with the UK’s failure to roll out a domestic energy retrofit programme. This is accentuated by the fact that housing generates around a quarter of UK carbon emissions – well over 100 MtCO2e in 2014, including electric heating. Even a 10% improvement across 23 million homes could reduce carbon emissions by nearly 3% and have considerable social benefits, so scalable domestic energy retrofit remains a hugely attractive option.

To learn from the Green Deal scheme, which was effectively scrapped by the government in July 2015, and suggest how to move forward, Peter Bonfield, chief executive at BRE, was asked by Amber Rudd, then energy secretary, to report on delivering scalable domestic energy retrofit.

‘We propose a quality mark for all energy efficiency and renewable energy measures – to indicate clearly that the holder delivers to best practice standards in the sector.’

Each Home Counts, 2016

The review, Each Home Counts, was published by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy in December 2016. It focuses mainly on how to ensure that domestic consumers and providers of housing can access good quality, energy-efficient solutions, rather than the merits of specific products or technologies. Yet the proposals are extensive and, in places, radical, which makes them of significant interest to customers, manufacturers, and the contractors who fit energy-saving products, both passive (such as insulation and double glazing) and active (such as heating controls and PV).

Energy quality mark

Bonfield’s review begins by recommending that future government and other funded domestic retrofits should work to a new framework with a new quality mark (QM) issued by an approved certification body. He envisages that the QM would build on recognised consumer brands, such as the Gas Safe Register, TrustMark and Kitemark, and help consumers identify who can provide quality energy installation or advice. The framework would be overseen by a strategic governance board, comprising representatives from industry, consumer protection organisations and the government.

For the QM to take off, it must be widely specified by those who provide consumers with financial help so that service providers have the market incentive to work to numerous supplier requirements recommended in the review. These begin with a:

  • consumer charter – to ensure that all consumers receive ‘excellent levels of customer service, a clear redress process, and guarantee protection’;
  • code of conduct – governing how service providers behave, operate and report. This must be met or exceeded for the company to operate; and
  • codes of practice – relevant to the installation of each renewable energy or energy efficiency measure to reduce the risk of poor quality installation.

Supplier skills and behaviours

Those choosing to work within the framework would need to show various ‘skills, behaviours and competencies’, including:

  • technical competence – to ensure health and safety, underpinned by regulatory power to discipline those that fall below required competence levels;
  • quality performance – to ensure measures are installed in a way that meets performance requirements; and
  • customer interfacing skills – to ensure those operating in homes do so in line with good customer service.

Perhaps optimistically, the review looks for the domestic supply chain to ‘embed core knowledge, including basic building physics, design stage and consumer interaction into vocational and professional pathways, including qualifications, training courses and apprenticeships’. In a chapter on the role of smart meters and the national rollout, it calls on installers to ‘provide tailored home energy efficiency advice to consumers during the smart meter installation visit’.

Information and guidance

Every Home Counts concludes that successful energy retrofit needs to improve consumer and service provider access to useful information and guidance. This would be achieved through an information hub, which would also drive online and telephone advice to consumers, and a so-called data warehouse (an accessible store for property-related data, including energy performance certificates).

Ideally, the data warehouse would also store design specifications ahead of installation, and aftercare support and quality information.

The story of home energy efficiency still mainly centres on insulation, and the future of domestic retrofitting will stand or fall on how well this is carried out. However, the review recognises the need to co-ordinate the design and installation of both passive and active technologies, and to apply a ‘holistic home property approach’ – one which considers a domestic dwelling as an energy system with interdependent parts that affect the overall performance of the whole system. The occupants, site, and even local climate will all be taken into account.

To support the review’s recommendations on standards for both domestic energy efficiency and renewable energy measures, a new Retrofit Standards Task Group would address the next generation of energy installation benchmarks. Two standards that supported the Green Deal – PAS 2030, on the installation of energy efficiency measures, and PAS 2031, on the requirements for certification to PAS 2030 – are being revised.

However, standardising may prove harder than previously required for the Green Deal, as domestic energy installation moves towards interconnected systems based on smarter technology, the internet of things (connected and actuated technology), local energy storage and smart grids. Meanwhile, the proposed codes of practice would aim to engage with these new challenges by including the role of design before installation, notably for more complex work or combinations of measures and technologies.

Active energy technologies

The review notes that the 1.5 million condensing boilers installed every year, alongside heating controls, would continue to play a role and that other technologies, including LED lighting, solar PV and thermal, and ventilation are already widely used.

Although the standards for these technologies are now established, the review cites heat pumps, biomass boilers and lighting controls as being of benefit in the future, even if they are not yet mainstream. Guidance and standards for these less established measures need to be reviewed in more detail as part of yet another proposal – an action plan for each potentially useful energy technology.

Next steps

Initial activity in support of the review’s recommendations focus on:

  • developing the new QM framework;
  • agreeing terms of reference for the strategic governance board, and the role of the supporting service organisation; and
  • developing the key elements of the code of conduct; consumer charter; codes of practice and associated standards; and information hub and the data warehouse.

To an extent, the 27 recommendations in Every Home Counts underline how far short the Green Deal was in providing an effective backdrop for a UK domestic retrofit, even before the crucial question of financing. Although the defunct scheme broadly assumed that energy-related measures would be installed in one hit, the Bonfield review recognises that measures may be installed over many years. Even then, a holistic approach needs to be taken.

One risk of advocating a new quality mark is accidentally interfering with what already works in the domestic marketplace, although the review says ‘certification (for the QM) would continue much in the same manner for installers as it does now’. If so, the QM can focus on the real task, which is raising the minimum acceptable standard that operates across the domestic energy retrofitting landscape. In doing so, the proposals in the review will result in extra costs, but increased market volume and efficiency will offset these for service providers and, ultimately, consumers.

Every Home Counts is broad in scope, and some of the recommendations – notably the timescales – are optimistic, particularly when one considers that publication was delayed for around nine months. The next six months should show which recommendations have the necessary stakeholder support, how many are likely to go ahead, and what they may eventually mean for the success of domestic energy retrofitting in the UK.

The Green Deal

Launched on
 28 January 2013, the Green Deal was the coalition government’s flagship energy efficiency scheme. Money was made available for a range of energy-saving measures to be installed in homes and the Green
Deal Finance Company was set up to
fund providers.

Amber Rudd, then secretary of the former energy and climate change department (Decc), announced in July 2015 that the government was ending funding of the company, in effect closing it. Decc claimed that low take-up and concerns over industry standards were the reasons for the scheme’s demise.

Last month, financial services firms Greenstone Finance and Aurium Capital Markets announced they had acquired the business and assets of the GDFC, as well as its existing loan book.


Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.

Transform articles

Is the sea big enough?

A project promoter’s perspective on the environmental challenges facing new subsea power cables

3rd April 2024

Read more

The UK’s major cities lag well behind their European counterparts in terms of public transport use. Linking development to transport routes might be the answer, argues Huw Morris

3rd April 2024

Read more

Tom Harris examines the supply chain constraints facing the growing number of interconnector projects

2nd April 2024

Read more

The UK government’s carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS) strategy is based on optimistic techno-economic assumptions that are now outdated, Carbon Tracker has warned.

13th March 2024

Read more

The UK government’s latest Public Attitudes Tracker has found broad support for efforts to tackle climate change, although there are significant concerns that bills will rise.

13th March 2024

Read more

A consortium including IEMA and the Good Homes Alliance have drafted a letter to UK government ministers expressing disappointment with the proposed Future Homes Standard.

26th February 2024

Read more

Global corporations such as Amazon and Google purchased a record 46 gigawatts (GW) of solar and wind energy last year, according to BloombergNEF (BNEF).

13th February 2024

Read more

Three-quarters of UK adults are concerned about the impact that climate change will have on their bills, according to polling commissioned by Positive Money.

13th February 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close