Energy Efficiency Standard for Social Housing Review - Just Transition, Metric and Heating System subgroup minutes: 16 November 2022

Minutes from the meeting of the subgroup on 16 November 2022.

Attendees and apologies

  • Angela Morgan, Port of Leith Housing Association
  • Bruce Cuthbertson, Tenant representative
  • Callum Neil, Scottish Government
  • Cassandra Dove, SFHA
  • Chris Morgan, John Gilbert Architects
  • Ciara O'Connor, Scottish Government
  • Duncan Smith, River Clyde Homes
  • Jackie Timmons, City of Edinburgh Council
  • Lori McElroy, University of Strathclyde
  • Paul Leask, Hjaltland Housing Association
  • Scott Restrick, Link Group Ltd
  • Simon Roberts, Scottish Government

Items and actions

  • SG to amend and send remit paper to the Group. Due November 2022
  • SG to draft options paper to be reviewed by the subgroup. Due November 2022
  • SG to report back to group on where SG discussions with DNOs with respect to cost of connection to grid have gotten to. Due November 2022
  • SG to circulate Supply Chain Delivery Plan. Due November 2022

Welcome and introductions

List of attendees is available.

Ciara O’Connor welcomed everyone and thanked all for agreeing to be part of the EESSH2 review subgroup on Just Transition, Metric and Heating System. Everyone introduced themselves and their interest in the EESSH2 review. The aim is to have three meetings which will feed into the main EESSH2 review. Attendees were advised that meeting notes will be published on the SG website.

Review of subgroup remit

Members of the subgroup were invited to ask any questions or provide any thoughts on the subgroup remit circulated prior to the meeting.

It was noted that there would be some engagement necessary between subgroup 1 on Just Transition, Metric and Heating System and subgroup 3 on Fabric and Hard to Treat. SG to include this line in the remit paper.

It was suggested that the remit of the subgroup should be going further than not worsening the effects of fuel poverty and should be looking to reduce the effects of fuel poverty.

The cost effectiveness of measures is important to have the biggest impact on fuel poverty. From a tenant’s perspective any increase in rent that is going towards paying for energy efficiency upgrades should be met with an equal reduction in energy bill.

Discussion of outputs and outcomes

It was discussed what the subgroup aims to achieve.

The standard that replaces EESSH2 should ensure that achieving net zero and tackling fuel poverty are considered together – the installation of zero emission heating must not increase the energy costs of the tenant.

Noted that there is an overlap between the remit of this subgroup and Subgroup 3 (Fabric and Hard-to-treat), which will look at options for developing archetype solutions.

An alternative metric to EPC and SAP could be an acceptable range of kWh/m2/year, which could be converted to an equivalent EPC scale. Other options can be considered, but the metric has to be one that landlords are able to use. 

Suggested that we consider the three heating regimes in the Fuel Poverty (Enhanced Heating) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 as part of the new standard.

It was agreed that currently EPCs are straightforward to obtain given the large number of SAP assessors and are understandable. The issue with SAP is that it may not always be accurate, as different SAP assessors may produce different ratings for the same property. Another problems is that SAP is based around affordability, and does not reflect need to reduce carbon. Also a risk that this leads to use of measures that cause problems such as mould. However there may not currently be a skill force capable of measuring a more technical metric. There is also a potential mismatch with proposals for tenements being developed in the Short-life Tenement Working Group.

A list of measures could also be an alternative, which was done previously in the Scottish Housing Quality Standard (SHQS) before SAP was introduced. A building scorecard could be produced, showing what energy efficiency measures have been installed and what measures are still required to be installed. Minimum u-values/air tightness could also be applied to the scorecard. A list of measures based on the building archetype could be produced, although caution would be need to be taken on buildings that look the same but may not be of the same construction. Landlords would know from asset management what works for upgrading the fabric.

It was agreed that a fabric first approach is key to reducing energy demand and ensuring tenants energy bills do not rise due to electrification of heat. 

A holistic approach is required to ensure any energy efficiency improvements do not create problems with damp/mould. It was suggested that retrofit works should be subject to the same level of building control as new builds.

Aims for a new standard

The new metric should find a balance between covering the necessary parameters while not being overly complicated.

It is important to have a standard that is measurable.

Outcomes must be affordable for tenants, including cost of use and maintenance. 
Needs to be one that landlords can use and helps them to exercise control over what gets done to their buildings.

Needs to support low temperature heating systems.

Applying a standard to mixed ownership tenements is another challenge. Need to connect to LHEES plans.

SG to draft an options paper to be reviewed by the subgroup.

Considerations and future meetings

When considering net zero heating systems the design of the low temperature distribution system is crucial. Any error in the design of the system can lead to high heating bills. 

The practicality of delivering retrofit projects on scale needs to be considered, particularly if it involves decants. Finding a means of conducting the retrofit without decanting the tenant can improve the buy in from the tenant, if they feel part of the process.

From a tenants perspective the most important factor is affordability. There needs to be a trade-off between increased rent and reduced energy bills. It was noted that the increased maintenance costs of net zero heating, in particular heat pumps, need to be considered. A reduction in energy bills would be offset by the increase in maintenance costs in comparison with a gas boiler.

Training for housing officers also needs to be considered to set expectations and to provide an understanding of new heating systems. Tenant engagement is also important along with understanding differing thermal comfort levels for vulnerable tenants.

Duncan Smith advised of a project with River Clyde Homes where they will be installing low temperature distribution systems to accommodate future heat pump installations. The systems would continue to run on gas boilers and be swapped out at a later date.

The next meeting will discuss the cost impact on tenants and considerations for mutli tenure.

Any other business

It was noted that with the electrification of heat discussions with DNOs will be important. Clarity over who will be responsible for paying for reinforcing the network also important. SG to get an update from colleagues on this matter.

The next meeting is scheduled for 30 November 2022. 

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