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The Energiesprong approach

Jane Lumb, head of energy and sustainability policy at Nottingham City Council, discusses a new housing procurement approach being trialled in the region to radically improve the energy efficiency of older homes.

There is little doubt that many of Britain’s homes need to improve their energy efficiency. A 2015 study by the Association for the Conservation of Energy found that the UK has among the highest rates of fuel poverty and one of the most energy-inefficient housing stocks in Europe. Poorly heated homes have a knock-on impact on health outcomes, and all that wasted energy impacts on our climate change ambitions.

Local authorities have one of the biggest roles to play in helping people save energy and live in homes that they can afford to heat. Having an in-depth understanding of our neighbourhoods, residents and housing stock, we can target schemes which maximise the impact on fuel poverty and carbon emissions.

To reduce the cost of energy bills, Nottingham City Council launched the not-for-profit Robin Hood Energy company, but we also need to improve the energy efficiency of our homes. Under our Greener HousiNG scheme, we have delivered external wall insulation to over 6,000 social and private homes and installed solar renewable energy (PV) systems in over 4,000 of our social homes.

We expect climate change regulations to require housing emissions of greenhouse gases to be near zero by 2050. More standard external wall insulation is not enough. With 26,000 houses, Nottingham City Council therefore has a commercial imperative to find a method of retrofitting houses to a near-zero emission standard in an affordable way.

We need a new model which completely changes energy usage of older homes in a way which pays for itself. The Energiesprong model could be just the solution.

‘Zero net energy’ homes

Ten homes managed by Nottingham City Homes have been selected as the first UK Energiesprong pilot to be contracted. The project will radically improve older houses using energy-saving and energy-generation measures, dramatically reducing household bills and making homes much warmer. The ambition is to make this the first part of a wider area regeneration programme.

The Energiesprong approach, pioneered in the Netherlands, upgrades a home with a manufacturing solution that includes new outside walls and windows, a solar roof and a state-of-the-art heating system, all installed in a matter of days. The aim is to generate as much energy as the homes need, making them almost ‘zero net energy.’ Works will not only enhance the homes’ energy performance, but will also dramatically improve the look and feel of the neighbourhood. 

Part of the innovation is how works are funded. The household pays an ‘energy plan’ to the landlord and the landlord receives an ongoing income to fund similar works to more homes. The resident has a much more comfortable home and a flat rate cost for energy, which will not grow significantly when bills rise. 

A further part of the innovation relates to procurement. By using a collaborative, outcome-focused approach and by requiring the developer to guarantee that the homes will perform as specified well into the future, the market is incentivised to put forward more innovative solutions. With offsite manufacture of some of the solutions, cost savings should be achieved as the approach is scaled up.

As a pilot, the work on the first 10 homes is not yet possible without support. This pilot is part of a cluster of smart city solutions being delivered in Nottingham over a three-year period under the European-funded REMOURBAN project, which seeks to show how sustainability can be integrated into the regeneration of our towns and cities.

This is just the start. Nottingham will be the home of the first UK pilot, but the Energiesprong UK team is co-ordinating efforts by several local authorities and housing providers across the UK.  Working together, we can share learning to speed up the innovation process and reduce costs more quickly.

We are ambitious to do more and are seeking funding for the next stage of development. By working together, we can find the cost-effective solutions to make homes almost zero net energy and really tackle fuel poverty once and for all.


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