Renewable energy schemes are a hot topic in housing

We all worry about keeping our home warm as the mercury falls and temperatures plummet during the winter months.

Solar panels

For many, it can be a stressful time keeping on top of energy bills with household budgets stretched and mortgages or rents to pay.

At Wheatley Group – Scotland’s leading housing, care and property-management organisation – we know the impact rising fuel bills and keeping homes warm has on our customers and that’s why we are investing in technology to tackle these issues head on.

In particular, high energy bills impact significantly on our social housing tenants, many of who are already feeling the financial strain. It’s wrong that anyone should be left with the choice to eat or heat, but for some that is the reality.

What more could social landlords, energy providers, governments and other agencies do to prevent this?

Our social landlords at Wheatley – GHA, Cube, Dunedin Canmore, West Lothian Housing Partnership and Loretto Housing – are finding new ways to mitigate rising energy costs and help people make their money go further.

We’ve been involved in a number of ground-breaking partnerships to help address these concerns.

District heating and renewable energy schemes offer significant benefits for customers and housing providers. The systems provide heat and hot water at an affordable price, which helps tackle fuel poverty, and allow us to meet energy-efficiency targets and Scottish Housing Quality Standards.

Cube launched a heating and hot water system in Glasgow in 2012. The district heating system in the Wyndford Estate in Maryhill was part of a £27million regeneration project benefitting more than 1900 residents.

A partnership with Scottish Gas and SSE allowed Cube to overclad the multi-storeys and low-rise blocks to improve energy-efficiency. On average, residents have reduced the amount of energy they use by 49 per cent - with estimated cost savings to residents of 38 per cent.

In addition, the combined heat and power engine saves around 7000 tonnes of carbon emissions each year.

After the success of the Wyndford scheme, Wheatley Group now offers affordable, energy-efficient heating in more communities where its partner organisations have homes.

Another partnership saw Lowther Homes, which provides mid and full-market properties for rent, and GHA upgrade a multi-storey block in Ibrox, Glasgow. A £1million grant from the Community Energy Savings Programme, in partnership with Scottish Power, enabled a combined heat and power engine to be built a stone’s throw from the flats.

Of course, energy-efficient heating systems alone won’t end fuel poverty. Buildings need to be maintained and upgraded to ensure they remain warm and dry. The combination of district heating systems with external wall insulation, new windows and new or upgraded roofs means we can make our homes more energy efficient.

Cube, in partnership with British Gas, is investing £10.6million in homes in Glasgow’s Broomhill, Gorget and Maryhill neighbourhoods. The biomass heating systems run on wood pellets rather than fossil fuels, making them more environmentally friendly.

Elsewhere, Dunedin Canmore, working with the City of Edinburgh Council and its communities, delivered a £67million regeneration project to create sustainable housing in the Moredun Park and Hyvots areas of South Edinburgh.

Energy-efficient initiatives included solar hot water, solar PV and communal heating. Nearly 300 homes were refurbished to a highly energy-efficient standard meaning low energy bills for residents.

Dunedin Canmore has nearly 1,000 homes heated by communal heating schemes. Several are operated by combined heat and power plants, generating communal electricity as well as heat. Over 270 properties, mainly developments for older people, also have communal solar PV installations.

Technology, of course, never stands still and housing providers must be ready to embrace the latest advances.

GHA has fitted 500 homes with solar panels to help tenants save money on their energy bills. More than 3.3million kWh of electricity – the equivalent to nearly £500,000 – has been generated so far.

GHA developments in Glasgow’s Carntyne and Croftfoot include 16 energy-efficient homes including a sunroom and solar panels. The homes, known as the Glasgow Houses, were built in partnership with City Building. They were designed with a south-facing two-storey sunspace that acts as a thermal buffer, preheats fresh air and provides additional living space.

Smaller, independent energy companies are also beginning to challenge the monopoly of the ‘Big Six’ providers. Wheatley Group has joined other housing groups to launch ‘Our Power’ – a non-profit energy company which aims to save disadvantaged communities around £11million on their energy deals over the next five years.

At the same time, we offer a free in-house fuel advice service to tenants to help them get access to the cheapest energy tariffs and arrange low-cost repayments.

We can’t do much about the weather but by being less reliant on the Big Six, embracing technology and continuing to invest in our homes we can make a significant difference to tenants’ lives.


Thursday, February 18, 2016