Has LETI stolen the show from the Heat & Buildings Strategy this week?
The Government’s long-awaited Heat and Building Strategy has finally arrived this week, and it is a step up from previous strategies, but does it go far enough?
There is a glimmer of hope for retrofit with the intention to prioritise the installation of energy efficiency measures, now, whilst the grid is decarbonising. There is even mention of ‘fabric-first’ and ‘whole-house’ approach, as well as support for one of our favourite retrofit training courses, the AECB’s Carbonlite Retrofit course.
We welcome the news that heat pumps are firmly in the limelight for achieving decarbonisation in buildings, with ambitions to dramatically increase the installation rate in heat pumps over the next few years from around 35,000 over a year now, to over 600,000 a year by 2028. The Enhabit team, and the wider Efficient Building Solutions group of companies, hope to be part of the solution to help match this growth rate.
Reduced financial support for heat pumps
We note that incentive for heat pumps has been reduced from the £12,000 that could potentially be received from the retiring Renewable Heat Incentive to just £5,000. Also, the grant favours those that can afford the remaining £5,000 to £8,000, so does not target the most vulnerable households.
Hydrogen is still in the mix
Hydrogen has taken a bashing by many retrofit and heating experts recently, as to its suitability for heating in buildings, as well as its green credentials. The strategy indicates that the Government still intends to undertake research and development into the use of hydrogen for heating, but there seems to be less emphasis on hydrogen to solve the problem of decarbonising heating. The implication is that decisions will be made in 2026 about the role that hydrogen will play in heating buildings, and that the next few years will be collecting evidence for that review.
Not nearly enough on retrofit
All of this is going some way to promote retrofit, but there is so much that is missing. The Ministerial foreword is telling in that there is no mention of the condition of our current housing stock, of fuel poverty and indoor air quality, excess winter deaths, damp and cold. All of which are key drivers, as well as climate change, for the retrofit of our homes. It is the only strategy from the Government, as far as I’m aware, that calls for the energy efficient retrofit of buildings, and the only message from the Minister is one of decarbonisation. Fuel poverty does feature in the Strategy, once you get into the detail, and there is even a whole sentence on the positive health impacts of good ventilation, which is more than we’ve had in the past, but they are seen as positive side effects of doing retrofit rather than motives to do retrofit in the first place.
The Strategy assumes that at EPC level C, the building will be fine to have a heat pump fitted and won’t require any further energy efficiency measures. All buildings should therefore aim for EPC level C. This doesn’t go far enough, in our opinion, and completely ignores all the other drivers for retrofit mentioned above. It also encourages retrofit to EPC level C, and no more. It doesn’t follow the processes in the retrofit standards PAS 2035 and PAS 2038* which looks at the best possible outcome in terms of carbon reduction and fuel savings for each individual building and it doesn’t comply with the premise that every building is different.
LETI Climate Emergency Retrofit Guide
This brings me on to the LETI Climate Emergency Retrofit Guide, which was launched yesterday Thursday 21 October. This is a guide that has taken over a year to produce, by a group of passionate volunteers, who also happen to be some of the leading retrofit experts in the UK. It is a shining example of how to do retrofit, from inception to completion and, in our opinion, is far more useful for the retrofit industry. It is the answer to the questions ‘how far do we retrofit, when do we retrofit and how do we do it?’.
So, if I were to recommend you only read one thing this week, don’t bother with the Government Strategy, just stick with the LETI guide.
Dr Sarah Price, Associate Director of Building Physics, Enhabit
*Retrofitting dwellings for improved energy efficiency. Specification and guidance. PAS 2035/2030:2019 and Retrofitting non-domestic buildings for improved energy efficiency. Specification PAS 2038:2021