Are current Local Authority Environmental Health Targets really working?

Local authority health targets are meant to do their bit to make the UK greener, but are councils really targeting the best options?

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It would be fair to say that we have been inundated with green spiel from the government and our respective local authorities over the last few years. In a bid to meet ambitious carbon footprint targets, the government has tried to invest as much money in making green retrofitting options as easy as possible to obtain. However, there are question marks over whether some local authority environmental health targets are really the correct ones.

Before we progress into the meat of the article, it should be stated that this contribution does not revolve around the Green Deal. A lot of the technologies that are discussed will be covered by this scheme, but due to the negative feedback it has received it has been decided to solely concentrate on the initiatives provided by local authorities.

To start with, we’ll take a look at the potential savings made from the main current local authority environmental health targets and measures. It should be noted that these figures are based on averages and the outcomes can differ depending on the product you select.

Green Retrofitting Measure

Average Initial Cost (£)

Savings (£)

Payback

Solar Panels

7,000

150

46.6 years

Double Glazing

7,000

170

41.1 years

Boiler Upgrade (E to A rating)

2,300

155

14.8 years

Loft Insulation (270mm top up)

300

25

12 years

Cavity Wall Insulation

500

140

3.5 years

Source: Energy Saving Trust

It is clear to see that most of the measures have long payback times, which immediately proves to be a deterrent for a lot of households. While the local authorities will tend to foot most, if not all, of the bill for these solutions, the fact that people won’t reap the benefits for decades suggests that resources could be being ploughed into the wrong areas.

Of course, there are some solutions that seem perfectly viable, with cavity wall insulation being the prime one with a payback period of just three-and-a-half years. If we were to also look at insulating a loft that has no previous insulation up there, the savings can also be terrific. Over the years these are options which have been exhausted though and if you were to analyse the general housing stock in the UK, you’d fine that the majority of homes have already been insulated and need to be targeted via other solutions if they are to become more efficient.

What Should Be Targeted?

The main issue that is trying to be raised through this article is that a lot of the retrofitting options that are currently used seem to have a high initial cost, in return for ‘average’ savings. There are several measures that have never been considered when coming up with local authority environmental health targets, despite offering low costs and considerable energy returns. We can only assume that it’s the low cost factor that has prevented local authorities from tapping into these products and they are under the assumption that people will be more tempted to purchase them out of their own pocket, rather than rely on initiatives. Here, we have listed some of the solutions in question.

LED Lights

The Green Deal actually covers these, but the fact that it is only for commercial properties highlights just how little they are thought of. It’s understood that the average home would save £55 per year by replacing every bulb in their property with an LED fitting – which is quite an achievement considering the fact that it’s now possible to purchase these bulbs for as little as £3.50 each through online marketplaces. Nevertheless, with such savings on offer, would it not be easy for local authorities to provide a scheme to cover them?

Solar Lights

Admittedly, you’re not going to find solar lights in your home and this is probably an option that mainly applies to those larger properties. However, we found that some security lights are solar powered and this is where major savings can be made – if your property has a large outside area. Unfortunately, precise statistics are a little harder to obtain in this regard, but with most standard security lights having terrific beams it goes without saying that the free solar option is going to save a decent amount of energy. Local authorities are keen to target solar panels – but again it seems the lower cost solutions are ignored.

Smart Meters

Some energy firms are installing free smart meters in properties, although there are suspicions that customers are then hit with hiked bills. Therefore, it seems to make more sense for an independent organisation to install them, with local authorities falling into this category. The concept of smart meters is that the more information households have about their energy usage, the easier it becomes to make savings.

Thermostats

A lot of the solutions that have been discussed are relatively new, but this definitely falls into the ‘traditional’ category, if there was such a thing. The fact that thermostats will turn off heating when a room reaches its optimum temperature unquestionably saves the pennies. Advancements in technology from companies such as Nest mean that some devices can even learn their owner’s schedule and needless to say, this is another way to shred the bills. These high-tech devices generally cost hundreds of pounds and again, this is something that the typical household isn’t willing to pay for without outside assistance.

A Closing Thought

The four solutions that were outlined could all be classed as cheap and unfashionable in some regards. The former, because none cost the thousands that some of the green solutions spoken about in the early section of the article do, while the latter as they don’t hold that  ‘wow factor’ what advanced solar panels and the like hold.

There’s no doubt that local authorities are attempting to do their bit to make the UK greener, but you have to question whether they doing it efficiently. If they were to target smaller and cheaper, but ultimately more efficient solutions like LEDs and solar products, they could prove to be more financially efficient for us all.

Image by Lis Burke

Article supplied by Mike Richardson

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