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Retrofitting London

23rd June 2014

Richard McCarthy will be speaking at the BASE London event on Thursday 26th June at the Guildhall in London. Here he looks at retrofit in London...

London’s 3.3m homes account for over 40% of its energy demand.  While the average household energy use over the last 40 years has fallen, and UK household energy prices are still cheaper than most places in Europe, our housing is among the most inefficient. 

With energy prices more than likely to carry on rising, the strain on household finances looks set to continue, to say nothing of the impacts of high CO2 emissions.  London certainly doesn’t buck the national trend in this respect; while the capital has a high proportion of flats, which tend to have lower energy consumption, a high proportion of properties are hard to treat, meaning that improving energy performance is both technically more challenging and more expensive.

Despite the challenge, there are many reasons why energy efficiency is worth the effort.

Aside from the huge benefits in terms of CO2 emissions and reducing household energy costs and fuel poverty; there are significant benefits in terms of improved housing quality and comfort, increased economic activity and job creation and reducing maintenance costs.

However, there is more to energy efficiency than this; as the Marmot and Hills reviews clearly set out, there are strong and proven links between cold homes and a number of health issues including cardiovascular disease and dementia. The good news is that there have been many successful projects in London already, with boroughs and housing associations often at the forefront including area-based delivery models and large estate regeneration programmes.

Nevertheless, these projects are but a drop in the ocean compared to the potential energy savings that we can and need to achieve over the next 15-20 years if we are to avoid the issues created by inefficient buildings and rising prices. This shouldn’t make us despondent, but should rather excite us, as the benefits of action are immense.

But achieving these benefits will require greater financial commitment from organisations supported by a strong case for investment. Experience has shown that this approach has generated huge benefits in comparison to instances where a more opportunistic approach to funding has been taken. The challenge to the market is to develop projects to emulate these pathfinders on a scale befitting of one of the world’s great cities rather than succumbing to the inevitability of rising energy costs.

Richard McCarthy is executive director of central government at Capita

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