September’s Energys Horizon Scan: low carbon insights for business sustainability

September's Energys Horizon Scan: We take a look at this month's low carbon insights for business sustainability...

Poor efficiency imperils London’s offices

New research by global real estate firm Colliers has highlighted major issues for commercial buildings in London.  The company finds almost 20 million square feet of London’s office space, equivalent to nearly 10% of the capital’s office stock, could become unusable by 2023 due to a low energy efficiency rating.

The story, reported widely in the property and energy press, reveals nearly 20% of central London offices can be classed as A and B on the EPC rating with an estimated 57% falling into the D to G categories.

Sustainability has been in the spotlight for London and indeed other commercial property hubs. The Covid pandemic has all but obliterated regular use of commercial office space in city centres.

A potential way to rebuild usage of such buildings at attractive cost can be through energy efficiency, which could not only reduce rental and other overheads, but also render such buildings more attractive through better comfort across lighting, ventilation and heating.

CNBC also covered this key story, arguing it raises questions about the future of these office blocks. “It is like a double-hit for these buildings,” Andrew Burrell, chief property economist at Capital Economics, told CNBC, referring to upcoming environmental regulations and the impact of the Covid-19 crisis.

Offices that do not comply with energy efficiency rules are at risk of becoming “obsolete,” he added.

COP26 shocker

The Scotsman reports that two flagship venues hosting the COP26 climate change summit have received the second lowest possible rating for energy efficiency. Work is yet to commence on a raft of legally binding improvements issued by assessors to reduce CO2 emissions.

The SEC Armadillo in Glasgow has been graded F by inspectors, who said its owners should “consider installing renewable energy sources plus new insulation and lighting” to curb its carbon footprint.

Cumulatively the venues, chosen by the UK government for the summit, along with Glasgow Science Centre, are pumping around 6,659 tonnes of CO2 a year into the atmosphere.

The reports are raising eyebrows because guidance for COP hosts stipulates the venue “should be an energy efficient building”, or have energy use reduction measures in place.

Green economy four times larger than manufacturing

The Guardian writes that the UK’s low carbon economy is now worth more than £200bn, almost four times the size of the country’s manufacturing sector.

Nick Molho, the executive director of Aldersgate Group, said that for the Net Zero transition to deliver jobs to local communities across the UK, the Government’s upcoming Net Zero strategy should include close collaboration with local authorities and community groups.

“We echo this logic,” comments Kevin Cox, our Managing Director at Energys Group. “All Net Zero and low carbon strategy needs to align nationwide and bring in the correct stakeholders.

“In this case, local authorities and community groups could highlight public buildings apt for energy efficiency upgrades, and engage with the private sector to get the work done through the knowledge and availability of funding.”

Pinsent Masons on Net Zero

Meanwhile, law firm Pinsent Masons has published a detailed guide to the legal drivers for Net Zero carbon real estate, arguably in response to customer demand on the drivers and regulations as they stand.

The firm notes Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) have come to provide a consistent basis for policy and legislative interventions and this is set to remain the case, and highlights the introduction of an in-use performance standard for commercial properties and of higher minimum efficiency standards on renting commercial properties by 2030.

It also says the Climate Change Committee’s sixth carbon budget and its June 2021 progress report included many policy recommendations.

Pinsent Masons argues: ‘This suite of consultations for England will, if passed into law, address carbon and energy reductions in new builds and, for England and Wales, will increase the requirements to make improvements to rented existing buildings.

‘They will also, through the performance-based rating system, achieve or provide a further platform to achieve the necessary improvements in energy by the most energy intensive owner-occupied commercial buildings.’

Negativity must go

Finally this month, the UK’s top climate adviser has pushed back strongly against “defeatist” criticism that the country’s Net Zero target is too expensive.

The Guardian notes that Chris Stark, the chief executive of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), urged the debate over Net Zero to be framed in a more positive light: “It can be done,” he said. “It is worth it … I hope we can move away from thinking about the cost and see it as a mission to modernise the economy.”

Stark said the market would play a vital role and the private sector needed clear policy signals to support investment decisions that would decarbonise and upgrade the nation’s transport, heating, energy and building stock.

We must keep a keen focus on decarbonisation – as our own work confirms,” comments Kevin Cox. “If anything, the pandemic has shown us the value of planning, foresight and sustainability principles in general.”

If you’re interested in reading more about our own major contributions to UK government’s net zero ambitions and decarbonisation of the public sector, have a read of our latest case study and discover how we worked on more than 70 projects to reduce their carbon footprint.

Energys Group completes over 70 LED lighting projects as part of PSDS scheme – with project value of around £6m

As one of the UK’s leading decarbonisation delivery companies, we’re proud to confirm that we have calculated that we have been responsible for the delivery of approximately 20% of the total spend on lighting upgrades as part of the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme (PSDS). Here at Energys Group, we have been involved in over 70 projects that were given the go-ahead under PSDS equating to a total value of around £6m.

In terms of products, we estimate that we supplied and installed around 50,000 new light fittings and sensor controls as part of the PSDS projects. Products specified include a variety of Energys’ latest LED solutions, including IntelliDim smart luminaires that can be commissioned via a smartphone app that allows the commissioning of precise light levels and occupancy parameters. In general, installations using IntelliDim can expect to register between 20% and 40% extra savings on top of those normally seen when upgrading from traditional lamps to LEDs.

‘Unprecedented initiative’

First announced in September 2020, the UK Government’s Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme (PSDS) entailed a £1bn fund being made available for public sector energy reduction projects. An unprecedented initiative in recent UK history, the scheme also heralded some huge challenges for those hoping to secure grants, who had less than four months to submit their applications from the date of the announcement.

The primary objective of PSDS was to help decarbonise heating. This meant all applications had to include a heat decarbonisation plan or an element of heating decarbonisation. The scheme also made funds available for other energy efficient technologies that can make a real difference to carbon and energy cost reduction – including LED lighting.

As funds were to be allocated against very tight timescales, with priority to be given to projects with an early implementation date, Energys made available a wealth of services to organisations wishing to apply under the scheme, including: Undertaking a survey and project proposal for LED lighting controls and/or boiler control technologies’; delivery of a heat decarbonisation plan; support with the completion of grant-related paperwork; and guidance on procurement through a compliant framework.

‘Really historic’

Recalling an intense period of work that involved guiding numerous public sector organisations through the complex grant application process, Energys Group Managing Director Kevin Cox describes the resulting upgrade programme “as really historic”.
“We have made it possible for over 70 public sector facilities to improve their lighting dramatically in a very short period of time,” he says. “Delivering to such tight timescales, on such a large scale – and during Covid restrictions – is not to be underestimated.”
The company says its delivery team rose to the challenge; on-site work had to be rigorously planned and executed to cope with countless access restrictions, site closures and issues associated with isolation.

“We’re all delighted to have played such an active – and significant – part in supporting the Government’s decarbonisation goals. The response from end users – teachers, pupils, estates staff – to the new lighting technology has been uniformly positive, while the forecast of carbon emission reductions – approximately 75% at each upgraded facility – speaks for itself, concludes Kevin Cox”

Longer-term impacts

For the schools, academies and other facilities involved, these upgrades are going to mean they can emerge from the pandemic period with fresh momentum, benefiting from improvements in environmental working conditions as well as huge reductions in carbon emissions and energy costs.

Download the full case study PDF here