Is RE:NEW Boris’s ‘Green Deal’

Energy

There’s been a lot of media coverage in the national papers over the disappointing progress to date of the Government’s flagship environmental programme, the Green Deal. Millions have been spent by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) in bringing forward this new energy efficiency scheme aimed at households, but the Government’s own latest statistics, issued earlier this week, show that some eight months after the Green Deal commenced, only one person had reached the “live” stage of the programme so far. 

London has long-been short changed in terms of receiving support from the national energy efficiency retrofit programmes. The Government’s main insulation schemes have over the past 10 years seen the ‘big 6’ energy companies steer clear of London, stating that it’s cheaper for them to meet their targets and insulate homes outside the capital. So, whilst Londoner’s have long been funding the national insulation programmes through energy bills, they have missed out on helping reduce their own energy costs. 

It’s now been over two months since I asked the Mayor a question seeking clarification on the cost savings achieved by households who had gone through his own London-bespoke energy efficiency programme, RE:NEW. The normal response deadline for such Mayoral Questions (MQs) has now long gone and, despite several further prompts to Boris’s office, I’m still waiting for an answer. 

It’s not the first time Boris has held back on providing details on his multi-million pound RE:NEW scheme. After first stating that a programme evaluation report would be released in November 2012, it took further MQs to remind of him of his promise before, finally, analysis was released in June. Even then, this turned out to be only a summary assessment – the final evaluation study will, according to Boris,  be published in “Summer 2013”.  I’m not holding my breath. 

The RE:NEW programme model is to provide Londoners with a number of no-cost ‘easy measures’ such as an energy display devices, radiator panels and draught proofing insulation and then using these interventions to boost the take up of more significant solutions such as cavity wall and loft insulation through the national energy efficiency programme. 

The RE:NEW website sets out that “It is designed to reduce CO2 emissions from London’s homes, save residents money on their utility bills and make their homes warmer. It also contributes to reducing fuel poverty.”  Limited technical trials took place of RE:NEW in 2009, followed by demonstration projects in 2010. Originally launched through area-based programmes, RE:NEW was fully rolled out in 2011 and is now described as a ‘pan-London’ scheme, with all boroughs taking part.  

The Mayor has to date spent £7.8m on RE:NEW with the majority of this money (£5.7m) allocated to the 2011 pan-London rollout. The evaluation summary report looked at this rollout phase and stated that 50,683 homes were retrofitted and that savings could be as much as £122 per year to those households who took up further insulation offers from energy suppliers. 

However, as my still-unanswered question to the Mayor points out, the evaluation report reveals that after having the no-cost ‘easy measures’ installed – the vast majority of households – 97% – did NOT then go on to take up further insulation measures. Hence savings achieved to those homes that went through  RE:NEW are estimated to amount to only £28.81. This is nowhere near the level of £154 saving originally reported to the London Assembly during the RE:NEW pilot phase. 

To put this in context, if you take the average energy bill for Londoners to be around £1,300, homes going through RE:NEW benefitted by  a 2% saving to their energy bills. Over Boris’s term as Mayor, Londoners have seen their energy bills rise by around 20%. With future price rises anticipated by the ‘big six’ energy suppliers later this year, it appears that RE:NEW has managed to achieve little in terms of insulating homes or helping alleviate fuel poverty. 

A second phase of RE:NEW funding has recently been approved by the Mayor with the Capita group appointed to oversee programme management. They have recently stated that they want RE:NEW to “accelerate domestic retrofit projects in London” and be “bigger, better, faster”.  They will need to seriously improve on previous performance to help stop RE:NEW go the same way many think the Green Deal is now going.