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Public buildings overtake offices in energy efficiency focus, but supplier confidence slumps

Public buildings commissioned the largest proportion of energy efficiency projects during the second quarter of 2015, overtaking offices for the first time since research into this began in 2012.

The recent survey of 63 senior managers at supplier organisations, found that 21% of public buildings benefitted from energy efficiency upgrades.

The top spot, which had always been occupied by offices, also follows a quarter where overall energy project commissioning was at one of its highest rates since the survey began. Around 70% of consumers typically report commissioning projects each quarter, but this figure jumped to almost 80% in Q2.

Within these projects, high-efficiency lighting continues to outperform individual technologies and features in 63% of energy efficient projects – but lighting controls (34%) and general building controls (31%) and solar PV (22%) are not far behind.

The long-term trend of generally wide-ranging capital cost of these projects indicates sustained growth in project size. The average cost started at around £60,000 in 2012, but the median has now jumped to double that – despite a decrease in the volume of the ‘very largest projects’, valued at half a million pounds, in the last two quarters.

But supplier confidence in the government’s management of energy efficiency hit an all-time low this quarter.

This was primarily driven by the drop in confidence in the government’s management of energy policy, with the report citing regulation and subsidy/policy support as two of the top three issues of concern for suppliers.

Supplier confidence with regards to Whitehall’s management of the wider economy also fell in the second quarter, although the change was less steep than that of energy efficiency policy specifically.

Commenting on the trends, Ian Jeffries of EEVS, co-author of the report, said: “A notable theme in this quarter’s research has been the lack of support that the energy efficiency sector feels it has received from the UK government.

“Interestingly, however, the policy landscape has shifted somewhat since the survey was carried out.

“For example, in July the new Conservative government announced its much-publicised cuts to renewable energy subsidies and, shortly afterwards, a less prominent Treasury-led review of energy efficiency and carbon taxation. This perceptible swing in favour of energy efficiency could be a shot in the arm for a sector reporting a loss of confidence.

“Allied to this, there is increasing political optimism that the upcoming COP21 negotiations in Paris will yield a new global climate agreement. If so, these recent UK policy changes may suggest that encouraging energy efficiency through higher taxation could UK government’s preferred approach, at the expense of incentivising renewables.

“If nothing else, there’s certainly lots to look out for, and it will be interesting to see how the sector responds to these issues in the coming quarters.”

The survey was conducted between 12 August and 30 September.


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