Home » Business group issues capital plan for retrofit revolution

Business group issues capital plan for retrofit revolution

by Mark Cantrell
London borough leads the charge on EV plug points

A business group in London is calling for a “bold package” of measures to encourage homeowners in the capital to retrofit their homes.

BusinessLDN’s new 10-point action plan was developed in partnership with retrofit one-stop-shop Hestia, and supported by businesses including Arcadis, Turner & Townsend, and Clarion Housing Association, as well as the Green Finance Institute, and London Councils.

Housing makes up more than a third of London’s carbon emissions so reducing these will require retrofit at scale, the business group points out.

This spans energy-saving measures such as fitting double-glazed windows or insulation, and could generate £110bn for the economy, and create more than 70,000 jobs for London, according to BusinessLDN’s analysis.

With owner-occupied homes representing the largest housing tenure in London, the action plan sets out the measures considered necessary to make it easier for homeowners to decarbonise their properties.

Muniya Barua, BusinessLDN’s deputy chief executive, said: “At a time when the capital is facing a cost-of-living squeeze, retrofitting can help Londoners cut their energy bills while also helping the environment and economy.

“Homeowners seeking to make their homes more energy efficient face a maze of complex process, confusing regulation and high upfront costs.

“That’s why we’re calling for a bold package of measures to encourage more homeowners to take the plunge, including a major awareness raising campaign, new financial incentives, as well as ensuring local authorities and the construction sector have access to the resources and talent that they need to deliver the retrofit revolution the capital needs.”

Capital demands

Among the measures BusinessLDN is calling for, to meet the target of EPC B by 2030 set by London Councils and the Mayor of London, are: Devolution of powers to local authorities alongside more dedicated resourcing and training for councils; adjustments to Stamp Duty based on EPC ratings; and new ways of funding and financing energy efficient home improvements reflecting homeowners’ circumstances, particularly during a cost of living crisis.

Chris Skidmore OBE, MP for Kingswood, and chair of the Net Zero Review, said: “Tackling the UK’s buildings emissions is key to reaching net zero. Decarbonising owner-occupier homes is essential if we are to deliver the change that is needed.

“London has a critical role to play in delivering the retrofit revolution that is needed across the country so I welcome this action plan from BusinessLDN. Following on from our recent Mission Retrofit report, it will help to catalyse action from individuals, the public sector and private sector.”

Councillor Kieron Williams, chair of London Councils’ transport and environment committee, added: “Boroughs are determined to make homes and buildings in London warmer, greener and more energy efficient through retrofit. In fact, this is one of the key priorities for our collaborative Climate Change programme.

“We know that people across the capital support councils and businesses in wanting to move to a more sustainable way of living and are crying out for ways to save money on their energy bills to help them through the cost of living crisis.

“It’s fantastic to see London’s businesses also making a commitment to accelerating retrofit of owner-occupied homes. With this dual approach, we can learn from each other and maximise the impact we have as we bring London’s carbon emissions down to net zero.”

Action plan

BusinessLDN says its 10-point action plan aims to accelerate retrofitting in London by making it easier, more accessible and more affordable. It calls for:

  1. A London-based retrofit awareness campaign led by the Greater London Authority and Energy Savings Trust to shift public perception so that homeowners can more easily understand the wide-ranging benefits that retrofitting offers including economic, health and comfort while helping to tackle climate change
  1. Greater devolution of powers to London’s boroughs including more dedicated funding and training to streamline the retrofit process
  1. A Stamp Duty that is adjusted based on the home’s EPC rating which can push homeowners to make energy efficiency improvements to their home within two years of purchase and in turn benefit from a stamp duty rebate
  1. A simplified, streamlined grant programme that brings together existing ones and ultimately uses a home’s actual energy usage to determine the level of available funding. This would help homeowners better navigate the process, it is claimed
  1. A ’building passport’ for all homes, which will help understand a home’s performance and how to improve it, collated in a pan-London green housing registry for easy comparison and data transparency
  1. Tailored financing mechanisms for individuals using existing products such as green mortgages, but also innovative financing methods, such as social enterprise lending options with the support of local authorities, for first movers
  1. Bigger scaled financing solutions for whole communities to create the necessary scale for investors to direct their capital
  1. An industry-funded recruitment campaign across London to attract diverse talent and close the skills gap in construction
  1. Faster development of apprenticeship standards for retrofits covering new legislation, technical expertise and a sustainability mindset
  1. Established and accredited retrofit ‘one-stop shop’, making it easier for homeowners to seek expert guidance along any stage of the retrofitting process

Right and profitable

Anna Moore, Hestia’s chief executive, said: “Retrofit is not only the right thing to do, it’s also profitable. London has a chance to show global leadership – unlocking high-quality jobs and building cleantech champions.”

Emma Harvey-Smith, programme director at Green Finance Institute, said: “Rolling out a London-wide retrofitting programme can help make homes warmer, reducing bills and emissions. With buildings being a significant contributor to London’s carbon footprint, making homes more energy efficient will be key to the city achieving net zero carbon by 2030.

“The development and scaling of existing and new financing solutions will be vital for providing the required capital to make retrofit upgrades. Innovative solutions – such as Property Linked Finance, which has seen almost $14bn invested making buildings in the US Greener – can help to tackle challenges such as the payback period by linking finance to the property and not the individual.”

Rebecca Harlow, net zero solution lead at Arcadis, said: “Tackling how we retrofit privately rented homes across London is key to the success of overall progress on the retrofit agenda.

“Arcadis is focusing on this critical issue here in the UK and globally. We have been pleased to contribute to this paper which identifies and address the fundamentals on which industry needs to collaborate. Only by this collaboration will we achieve this at pace and in a way which delivers benefits for tenants.”

Richard McWilliams, sustainability director for the UK at Turner & Townsend, said: “Retrofitting London’s homes is a complex but necessary challenge if we are to meet net zero targets and BusinessLDN has managed to set out an overarching approach that can mobilize all the many talents of Londoners to get the job done. Not every proposal will be achievable, and others will emerge, but the overwhelming priority is that we should have a plan and a framework to bring us all together.”

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