Monday. Looking at shortlisted properties of Moat Housing and Affinity Sutton, our two housing providers in the e=0 project to deliver Energiesprong demonstrators in the UK. Each of them have used a set of filters to identify about 60 homes that would be ripe for a deep performance assured retrofit: they are ugly, non-descript boxes with low energy performance and below average level of repairs – and a solution provider can get to them easily as they are in one of the many sub-urban settlements that are so typical for England (that is if you put up with the dreaded speed humps and forget about the tiny little cul-de-sacs with small turning circles at the end…;-). So, how do we get them down to 10 that will be contracted? Learning from the Dutch: have a look at the residents – they will be making or breaking Energiesprong’s success in its early days. And it’s their energy bills that will be determining how much we can invest alongside the aggregated repairs & maintenance cost.
Tuesday. A contracting workshop, jointly with our colleagues from France and the Netherlands. How do we need to structure the new contracts that will be based on outcomes and performance requirements? Service-based contracts are much closer to what we need rather than traditional building works contracts. This is new territory for our partnering housing providers and industry alike. So let’s make sure we have strong engagement and buy-in to these new types of contracts. And as always the devil is in the detail. Advice from our experienced Dutch team member leading on commercial contracting: “write, write, write and re-write” so that people and their organisations can have a look at draft contracts well ahead of time.
Wednesday. How do we position the Energiesprong offer within the current market and within existing policy & regulatory conditions? The short term pressure and pain that the UK social housing sector is under shows. Squeezing every last pound and penny out of the existing assets to build more new homes occupies Board rooms and executive alike. Energy efficiency I hear you say – what? So, it’s all about long term strategic asset management, neighbourhood regeneration and more efficient operations. Hey, that’s Energiesprong!
Thursday. Did I say, the devil is in the detail? Today, it’s another workshop on the performance spec. How can we ask for a new product with assured long term performance without compromising on industry’s ability to innovate? Take summer overheating: is a defined number or percentage of hours above a certain set temperature the right ask to drive innovation or should we simply say: “just make sure the property doesn’t overheat”. Looking at the impact on residents helps here; hot temperatures in bedrooms at night cause much higher levels of discomfort than daytime living room overheating. So, let’s consider that for our performance spec without compromising on an overall objective to eliminate overheating.
Friday. Back to check those numbers again on the shortlisted properties. The investment envelope is tight compared to the Dutch business case (and France is also looking stronger). Why is it that the UK struggles here? Have English housing providers been so successful in their asset management in the past that they’ve already reaped all the benefits of so-called business efficiency programmes? I doubt it, but high cost of finance, ongoing policy uncertainty and a number of unfavourable decisions by subsequent UK governments (just thinking of the Right-to-Buy policy being extended as a voluntary scheme to housing associations, the 1% annual rent cuts, the forced council house sales, the reduced incentives for renewable energy as a starter for ten) make it harder to find a commercial business case for Energiesprong. And is it that we as a people just put up with much worse performing homes overall? Where is the ambition to improve comfort levels and provide residents with secure, fixed energy plans? Well, thanks to Affinity Sutton, Moat and the other housing providers that Energiesprong UK is working with I can wholeheartedly say that ambition is here in this project. So, let’s make it a reality with the first e=0 demonstrators to go into contract early 2017!
Arno Schmickler Energiesprong UK Market Development Team