Notes from Energy sub-group meeting 30th October 2012

The meeting was held in the Swan in the Rushes starting at 7.30pm, but only three of the Energy sub-group were present this week.  Still we managed to get some useful work done.

First off we decided upon the dates for future Energy sub-group meetings for the next year.  The dates are:

  • 5th December 2012
  • 13th February 2013
  • 10th April 2013
  • 12th June 2013
  • 14th August 2013
  • 9th October 2013

The meetings will all start at 7.30pm but we might change the venue as the Swan can be a bit noisy.  The Food & Gardening group will be trying out the Organ Grinder upstairs room soon, so if that turns out to be quieter we might try to use that space as well.

ACTION: Jon to add these to the TL calendar.

Next we looked at the solar PV scheme.  As far as the group is aware we’ve not had any installations for a while now despite trying to use social media promotion to TL followers over the summer, so we might want to try spending on the Echo advert now.  The promotional leaflet made for the Picnic in the Park needs to be revised yet again because FITS rates keep changing – we might want to try to word it to be more “timeless”.

We also briefly discussed whether we should augment the solar PV scheme with a solar thermal offering, as these may be suitable for smaller roofs and may be cheaper to buy.  Philip said that we’d really need to know what the pay back period is for thermal compared to PV and other technologies if we’re going to push this as a more cost effective option in these recessionary times, and also how solar thermal panels tie in with the Government’s Renewable Heat Initiative scheme.

ACTION: Philip to contact Colin Strong from New World Solar to quiz him on solar thermal system details, return on investment, payback period, etc.

Next we got to the meat of the meeting: the Retrofit Loughborough project proposal. Philip has been developing this over the last few months but it has taken on a new urgency as Central Government are asking for bids from local councils for Green Deal “pioneers” schemes to help demonstrate the advantage of Green Deal technologies and promote them locally.  The bids need to be in the £300K to £1M range and have to be lead by the local authority.  Philip has managed to re-engage contact in Charnwood Borough Council and is hoping to get a meeting with them soon, after already having a successful meeting with some of the other stakeholders such as the Energy Saving Coop, Permarock and University researchers.

Retrofit Loughborough is intended to provide a selection of “exemplar” houses around the town that will be able to host open days four times per year for three years.  The project can also be used a focus for engaging communities in energy saving measures by encouraging the development of local Community Energy Champions who can advise friends, family and neighbours on simple energy saving measures and then nudge suitable properties towards a full assessment for retrofitting.  Involving the local community in assessment make help to open access to more difficult to reach groups who could still benefit from Green Deal funding.  The Energy Champions will need training, possibly some simple equipment/supplies  (home energy monitors, sample energy saving products, etc) and it was suggested that it might be worth having a paid position to promote the scheme, recruit the volunteers and coordinate/support them for the first few years.

One thing to note is that this scheme does not appear to allow the actual retrofitting to be funded by the project: the home owners will still need to foot this bill (possibly via a Green Deal loan attached to the building’s energy bills).  So we will need to provide suitable incentives to encourage “early adopters” – having all the “project management” done for them and some incentives for holding open days of the finished properties may help here.  A paid project management post for the first two years is thus included in the proposal to manage and support this aspect of the scheme.

Choosing suitable homes will need to be done carefully, especially if we are over subscribed.  This means that we need to fund a project steering group to determine which homes are best in a variety of ways (technical, social network size, accessibility, etc).  The steering group will need to have meetings throughout the project and be constituted from the various stakeholders (CBC, University research groups, Energy Saving Coop, local supply chain).  It was also suggested that we try to get representatives of the Area Forums on board as this may help encourage community buy in.

We sat down and made a few rough “ball park” estimates of the sort of funding that Retrofit Loughborough would need to fit in with the Government’s scheme.  These are just estimates and so will need some research to firm up, and these may well change as interested parties develop the proposal and add/remove elements.

  • Project manager to run the scheme for two years (possibly CBC employee?): £60K per year = £120K
  • Incentives to help ensure that houses are opened: estimated 12 houses opened four times a year for three years with £100 budget per house per event: £14.4K
  • Public liability insurance for open days, events, etc: £6K for the life of the project.
  • PR and promotion: stage 1: attract suitable homeowners (ads, meetings, etc): £5K
  • PR and promotion: stage 2: promote open days and disseminate results widely: £5K
  • Green Deal assessments of each of the potential houses – we decided to guesstimate that we’d get at most fifty applications to join, and a Green Deal assessment is likely to cost about £100, so budgeted £5K
  • Steering group meeting costs, travel expenses, admin, etc: £10K
  • Web site for promoting the open days and booking people in to visit the retrofits: £10K
  • Training local suppliers/installers in suitable technologies to Green Deal standards: £50-100K
  • Monitoring usage – we might be able use the work of Steve Firth from Civil Engineering so this is an “input” into the scheme from the community.
  • Community Energy Champion promotion/recruiter/coordinator – £50K per year for 2 years : £100K
  • Community Energy Champion training, tools, expenses: £20K

This gives us a total initial estimate of £395.4K which is nicely in the funding range the Government are looking at proposals for.   The proposals need to be submitted by 30th November so there’s unlikely to be another face-to-face Energy group meeting before then unless there’s some urgent decisions to be made concerning TL involvement in the scheme (which is currently slated to be the volunteer time & resources to help with the various aspects of promotion of the scheme and arrangement of the Open Days).  Feedback and comments are thus encouraged via the TL Google Group mailing list.

Lastly, moving away from the Retrofit Loughborough scheme slightly we discussed making a TL response to the CBC Renewable Energy consultation.  This closes tomorrow (31st October 2012) and is intended to seek community opinions on whether CBC should incorporate local renewable energy generation as part of the council’s Core Strategy.  Philip had sent details of the consultation to the TL Google Group mailing list a few weeks ago, and Jon had already sent in a personal response to CBC as a result.  Jon read out his response and Philip suggested that he could use that as a basis of a TL response given the short timescales (for the record and rather unsurprisingly it broadly supported the idea of incorporating renewable technologies into the Core Strategy and encouraged the council to also take a lead on deploying systems on their own properties as a positive example to the town).


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