Jim Dyer, Built Environment director at Sovereign, takes a look at the progress being made within sector and industry towards ‘net zero’, and what this means for customers and the supply chain
Amid daily workplace challenges and set against a backdrop of political and economic uncertainty, it is easy to forget the progress being made within sector and industry towards ‘net zero’ and what this actually means for our customers and the supply chain.
Listening to debates and presentations at last week’s excellent Homes UK and Unlock Net Zero Live Conference the many positive achievements showcased were balanced with reminders of the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.
“Housing associations have a privileged position to be ‘pathfinders’ on the road to net zero where we can invite procurement relationships where reciprocal investment is sustainable for both parties over the longer period”
But beyond the buzz of technical compliance, a common thread emerged. This highlighted the importance of people, relationships and confidence in the quest to achieve net zero.
As an organisation with a clear social purpose, Sovereign believes that everyone should live in a home where they feel safe and can thrive. The cost of living and energy crisis is hitting hard and will continue to do so with typical energy bills set to rise from £2,500 to £3,000 in April.
Low-income households spend a higher percentage of disposable income on energy bills, compounding fuel poverty. So, the choice between heating and eating is a reality for some.
The key to effective decarbonisation of our existing homes is to carry our customers with us on this journey. Earlier this year we published research into our tenants’ attitudes towards decarbonisation. The findings told us that our customers value sustainability.
We understand the concerns a customer might have when presented with a whole house retrofit.
We are engaging directly with our customers and communities to develop a compelling engagement strategy with the principle aim of establishing trust, de-mystifying terminology and to explain each step in the retrofit journey.
As part of this, we’ll ensure we explain how our plans to retrofit their home can deliver health and wellbeing benefits as well as reducing energy bills by up to 70%.
This guiding principle of placing the customer at the heart of all our decision making is the foundation of Sovereign’s Homes and Place Standard. This is our qualitative, future-proofed design guide and science-based toolkit that prioritises health, wellbeing and affordability of our customers’ homes, while also mapping a simple pathway to net zero.
‘Sustainability’ can be a buzz-word and mean different things to different people. Looking beyond the environmental context for a moment, listening-in on Fusion 21’s ‘Procurement with Purpose’ debates and David Pierpoint’s informed opinion that we have a 400,000+ retrofit jobs deficit.
It is clear the sector’s ability to achieve sustainability goals will be determined by a wide range of factors requiring significant investment in education, training and the need for strategic supply-chain partnerships.
The term ‘sustainable procurement’ goes beyond a simple approach to ‘green’ purchasing. It means overlooking the traditional short-termism and competitive tendering which results in lowest-price-wins.
If procurement is to be truly sustainable (in these challenging recessionary times) it should embrace new strategic partnerships founded on strong pipelines, strong relationships, shared visions and values.
Housing associations have a privileged position to be ‘pathfinders’ on the road to net zero where we can invite procurement relationships where reciprocal investment in time, knowledge and resource is sustainable for both parties over the longer period.
At Sovereign we look forward to the imminent launch of our new strategic contractor framework, founded on our Homes and Place vision and values.
The £3.8bn Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund (SHDF) for social housing has been a powerful catalyst to drive energy efficiency improvement works generally but does come in ‘fits and starts’. Its long-term availability often feels exposed to the uncertainties of Annual Spending Reviews.
The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, allocating an additional £6bn towards improving energy efficiency and reducing energy demand, is a welcome additional policy intervention, albeit not available until 2025, therefore does not address fuel poverty priorities nor stimulate the supply chain today. The most recent £1bn ECO+ additional energy efficiency funding is another example of a welcome but fragmented funding strategy.
Encouraging as these sums are in isolation, they are ‘short-term’ initiatives and are but a drop in the ocean of what is actually needed to decarbonise the nation’s 4.4m social housing stock.
The National Housing Federation reports that the £70bn Housing associations plan to invest in decarbonising and retrofitting social homes over the coming decades will require a further £36bn if the government’s 2050 net zero targets are to be met.
The Climate Change Committee applauds government for setting ambitious targets and launching a new net zero strategy but also states there is ‘scant evidence of delivery against these headlines so far…. and in most areas the likelihood of under-delivery is high’.
Big challenges require big gestures. Looking beyond the social sector to the nation’s 29m poorly insulated existing homes, government should grasp the opportunity to plug the evident policy-gaps and partner with industry and create a long-term net-zero national retrofit strategy and trigger the rapid creation of a new green economy.
Policy-cohesion, long-term funding and fiscal certainty will inject market-confidence and drive the much needed institutional and private investment the supply chain craves.
Image: Jim Dyer – Built Environment director at Sovereign
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