On 18 January 2012 the consultation phase for the Government's flagship energy efficiency programme “Green Deal” closed; secondary legislation is expected to follow later in the year. Described as the biggest upgrade of UK housing since World War 2, the programme will offer energy efficiency improvements to homeowners with the aim of significantly reducing energy consumption and subsequent CO2 emissions. At the heart of the proposal is the “Green Deal plan” which means the cost of any improvements must be met through reduced energy bills with no upfront charge to consumers.
Birmingham City Council launched the Birmingham Energy Savers – Delivery Partner Scheme in September 2011 and the scheme is widely acknowledged as the pioneering local authority response to the Government’s Green Deal proposals. The scale of the scheme has attracted significant market attention which is understandable given the maximum capital value of the scheme is £1.55bn and involves up to 40 contracting authorities (including other local authorities, registered providers, fire and police authorities).
The procurement has also generated significant interest from other local authorities across the country as they consider the Green Deal opportunity and engagement route for their council. Indeed, the Government’s Green Deal consultation recognises the potential for local authorities to act as a catalyst for change in their areas. So while the Green Deal proposals can seem complex, they offer significant potential benefits on a local as well as national stage including lower energy use, less wasted energy, greater use of sustainable energy and kick-starting economic activity and opportunity. Given the current economic climate and concerns about energy prices and energy security, the attraction of Green Deal becomes obvious.
Birmingham has embraced the opportunities associated with the green economy and incorporated a commitment to the low carbon economy in its Business Plan 2011+. This is not, however, the Council’s first venture in the green economy. Birmingham’s procurement of solar PV installations and installing other efficiency measures on its stock over the last couple of years has allowed it to develop a trusted and recognised brand in this space. The latest research published by DECC suggests that local authorities have the brand to drive the Green Deal given the level of trust local citizens have in their local authorities when compared to other organisations. This trust is important because whilst the Green Deal proposition is straightforward, its execution and the “customer journey” has a degree of complexity.
Therefore, the ground work undertaken by the council to develop the Birmingham Energy Savers brand could prove vital to the success of their Scheme. Birmingham’s ambition is that 200,000 homes will have received eco-refurbishment measures by 2026 and the success of the Scheme will be vital if Birmingham is to deliver on its commitment to reduce CO2 emissions by 60% by 2026.
Councillor Paul Tilsley, Deputy Leader of Birmingham City Council said, “This is a truly innovative scheme as we are procuring a delivery partner for ourselves and up to 40 other contracting authorities. The successful roll out of the scheme will also enable Birmingham to deliver on strategically important objectives such as reducing our carbon footprint, improving the quality and affordability of homes, address the issue of fuel poverty in the city, increase employment and economic opportunities within Birmingham and create the conditions for a vibrant, low carbon, low waste economy”.
The Council is aiming high but believes that the significant benefits that could be achieved through the successful delivery of the scheme (in partnership with its delivery partner) could transform Birmingham and the wider West Midlands region and offer a blueprint for other local authorities to follow.