London homes to get eco-makeovers… but scheme hit by cuts

In 2009 the mayor promised his programme would treat 200,000 homes with easy energy efficiency measures like low energy lightbulbs, and offer advice and support for more complex things like roof insulation, but the new target is just 55,000 homes – or a mere 1.7% of London’s 3.3 million homes.

At a time of rising energy prices, the Mayor Boris Johnson is helping Londoners cut their fuel bills, with tens of thousands of homes set to be offered a free energy efficiency makeover. Homes in parts of Barking and Dagenham, Hackney, Lewisham and Waltham Forest are the first to receive this opportunity.

The RE:NEW energy efficiency programme is being provided to 55,000 homes in specific areas across the capital between now and May 2012, after a successful trial in nearly 9,000 homes in nine boroughs.

Residents in these trials made savings of up to £154 on their annual energy and water bills but it is estimated savings could be up to £180 a year taking into account recent energy price rises. The trials saved nearly 3,500 tons of CO2, equivalent to 3,000 cars coming off London’s roads.

But Labour’s environment lead Murad said: “RE:NEW is a really good programme and should be rolled out across the whole of London, but the mayor keeps scaling it back.

“We had one of the coldest winters ever last year and fuel bills are rising fast, so the only defence people have is to make their homes more energy efficient.

“London has some of the worst insulated homes in the country and Londoners are already struggling to pay their energy bills. It is clear the mayor has no influence whatsoever on the energy companies who keep putting bills up, but this is one area he could make a real difference.”

The RE:NEW team will be active in selected areas across all London boroughs offering the service. This includes a tailor-made range of energy-reducing devices installed by a trained assessor. The scheme will provide a range of different measures for free such as low energy light bulbs, radiator panels and stand-by switches. It also offers water saving measures.

Where appropriate, more substantial measures, such as loft and cavity wall insulation, will be offered. These will be subsidised for those able to pay and free for those on qualifying benefits helping to tackle fuel poverty.

With 80 per cent of carbon emissions coming from buildings, this service is part of the Mayor’s vision to “retrofit" London to create an energy efficient city, stimulate ‘green-collar’ jobs and help the city become more resilient to rising fuel prices.

RE:NEW is funded by the Mayor and all 32 London boroughs have signed as partners in the scheme, which is being delivered in partnership with London Councils and the Energy Saving Trust. Barking & Dagenham, Hackney and Waltham Forest, with appointed contractor, London Warm Zone, and Lewisham with appointed contracror, Osborne Energy, are the first to roll out RE:NEW.

The focus in these areas will be on providing energy monitors and stand by switches.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “Cutting energy waste at a time of rising costs makes good economic sense and it benefits the environment by reducing CO2. I am determined to make buildings more efficient on an unprecedented scale to create jobs in a low carbon economy. This will save millions off fuel bills and fundamentally improve quality of life for Londoners. RE:NEW is simple, safe and free to access, you’d be crazy not to go for it.”

Philip Sellwood, Chief Executive of the Energy Saving Trust, added: “The most successful energy efficiency programmes taken on area-by-area are those that offer something for everyone and where measures are installed on an individual, tailored basis. RE:NEW fits the bill on all counts – any householder, renting or owning, can benefit, and only the measures that will deliver carbon and bill savings for a given home will be considered. We’re pleased to be a part of it.”

Councillor Catherine West, Chair of London Councils Transport and Environment Committee, said: “Nearly 9,000 Londoners have already benefited from RE:NEW, saving more than 3,500 tonnes of carbon dioxide in the process. But there are many more still to go and we’ll be reaching more than five times as many homes during this next stage.

“Londoners who had their homes treated last year saved around £150 on their fuel bills. These next steps mean that as well as making their homes more environmentally friendly, a number of the capital’s poorest families will be less likely to suffer from fuel poverty next winter. As fuel prices continue to rise, this is more important than ever.’

The RE:NEW offer involves a full home energy survey carried out by a qualified home energy advisor, which takes roughly 90 minutes to do. Residents will then get a tailor-made energy saving report once the visit is complete and have a range of free energy saving measures installed.

The survey will also identify whether loft, cavity or solid wall insulation could be installed. If so, the advisor will check for eligibility for national funding from sources such as the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (CERT) and Warm Front (a government scheme providing insulation and heating improvements to vulnerable people in fuel poverty) as well as local borough grant schemes.

At the same time as improving energy efficiency, RE:NEW aims to reduce fuel poverty in London and each household will be offered a benefits check to ensure residents are claiming all of the benefits and grants they are entitled to. The London boroughs are responsible for managing RE:NEW locally and are working in partnership with appointed delivery agents who will be conducting the initial home visits and assessments. All advisors will carry clear identification.

RE:NEW is not an ‘on-demand’ service and is being delivered on an area by area basis because trials showed this approach resulted in more cost-effective and higher take up, helping to ensure that the city’s ambitious targets can be met. It has been designed to be as easy as possible for residents.

The aim is to attain the funding to expand the programme to 200,000 homes by the end of 2012 and 1.2 million homes by 2015. This will be subject to additional funding being secured principally through the Government’s ‘Green Deal’. RE:NEW is providing a consistent homes energy efficiency approach across London removing duplications and improving efficiencies, for example in reducing procurement costs.

The Mayor is also working with the Olympic Delivery Authority who are providing over £1m of funding to extend the RE:NEW scheme to additional homes and retrofit up to 12 schools through the Mayor’s RE:FIT programme in four of the Olympic host boroughs. The pioneering new project will help the ODA reach the stretching target to reduce the carbon emissions of the Park by 50 per cent.

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