Green Alliance champions the UK to ‘go Dutch’ with the Energiesprong Approach

13 February 2019

Green Alliance, the UK’s leading environmental think tank and critical contributor to the shaping of UK environmental policy, has thrown its weight behind the Energiesprong approach to tackle the country’s failing policy in meeting its climate targets. Dubbing the UK as the nation with ‘the least energy efficient housing stock in Europe’, a report published by Green Alliance this month highlighted that despite the UK’s ambition to have all housing stock meet EPC band C standards by 2035, only 29% is currently at this standard: “the UK’s current policy approach is nowhere near ambitious enough to tackle the remaining 71 per cent. In fact, energy efficiency improvements have stalled, measures are expensive, industry is underinvesting and householders still find retrofits a major hassle”.

Current UK ambitions not enough

Green Alliance attribute this failure to UK policy continuing to target low cost, localised measures such as cavity wall and loft insulation, instead of investing in technologically advanced, ‘whole house’ net zero energy retrofits such as the Energiesprong model. The report sees this piecemeal approach as unnecessarily costly. It states that: “continuing to only target the least cost measures, instead of innovating to reduce the cost of all the energy efficiency measures needed to achieve the EPC Band C goal by 2035, could raise annual public spending on energy efficiency from £640 million to as much as £2.3 billion”. And that furthermore: “if every UK home had cost effective, conventional energy saving measures installed, energy use would fall by 25%. Current UK ambitions are about half this, so would reduce energy use by about 12%.  But, to achieve the 80-100% cut in carbon emissions that the UK has committed to by 2050, much more is needed.

Energiesprong as a solution to dramatically cut carbon emissions

The Energiesprong approach could, according to Green Alliance, nearly eliminate the carbon emissions of 41% of the UK’s housing stock. And this would be only the tip of the iceberg of the numerous other benefits it could bring. A typical retrofitted home can save the UK Electricity Grid the value of £250 worth of supply annually due to its ability to shift energy loading away from peak times. Retrofitting 11 million homes would reduce the UK’s reliance on gas consumption for heating by 41%. “This would significantly reduce the cost of decarbonising the UK’s heat supply, which the National Infrastructure Commission say could cost anywhere between £120-£300 billion”. Energiesprong retrofits can be installed in as little as one day, removing the ‘hassle’ factor for householders.

Energiesprong boost to energy efficient product sector

Although the cost of the Energiesprong approach is currently higher than the usual incremental upgrades, the report stresses that: “ because the Energiesprong approach harnesses technology and construction innovation, its upfront cost is more likely to fall rapidly through mass deployment and economies of scale than conventional retrofits, in which case it will become the cheapest deep-house retrofit option available”.  And in addition, the production of its three main technological innovations – offsite construction, mass customisation and integrated components – would likely boost the UK’s energy efficiency product sector (currently flat) by £11 billion a year in the 2030’s.

The key to the Energiesprong approach’s success in the UK lies in mass deployment. An area which should be of particular interest and significance to UK policy makers is that of social housing. The report cites that rolling out the approach “across 2.3 million social homes could save construction costs of between £10.5-£31.5 billion”. With the current UK crisis in funding for social housing construction, a saving such as this should be taken very seriously. 

Government commitment can drive costs down

But even outside of social housing, the UK needs to cut carbon target emissions by 80%, and at present has few cost-effective options to make this happen.  The first small scale trial of the Energiesprong installations in Nottingham, UK cost £75,000 per home. But the report stresses that this cost could be reduced significantly on a larger scale, in the same way that it has been done in the Netherlands. 

Over the last three years, the foundations have been laid for Energiesprong to expand across Europe. We saw market development supported by the Horizon 2020 Transition Zero project and INTERREG NWE E=0 funding supporting Energiesprong pilots in the UK and France. As a result, there are now collective agreements in place for over 6500 Energiesprong retrofits in France and an Energiesprong rollout is underway to over 150 homes in Nottingham. Two pilot projects have launched in France and the one in Nottingham is shortly to be supplemented by two more UK pilots.  

In the Netherlands we have already seen what can be achieved when innovation and economies of scale come into play; the Netherlands has now almost halved the cost of its Energiesprong retrofits.   

For the UK the report says:  “Industry believes that a government commitment to supporting 5,000 retrofits would drive economies of scale, enabling market actors to finance further retrofits towards a £35,000 per retrofit cost goal. At this level, Energiesprong retrofits could be subsidy free”.

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