Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Solar Future for Social Housing?

Guest post by Alan Griffiths: UNISON London Labour Link
forum Motion 2012.

"Decent Homes work was evidently coming to an end late in 2010. No other investment for improving Council housing had been mentioned by the Tory-led government.  An acquaintance with the author-publisher of this blog had taught the UNISON stewards in Ascham Homes that Housing Associations had already been making development staff redundant. Could we influence our ALMO to do anything that might keep our colleagues in a job and show that the public sector could still do new, useful things in these dire times?

We were aware that some ALMOs and Housing Associations had done “rent a roof” deals with private sector partners to offer free solar electricity to their tenants. We were also aware of the contracts drafted by the London Development Agency for Ken Livingstone in 2007/8 for private sector partners to lead investment in energy efficiency and be paid from the future savings. UNISON stewards in Ascham Homes wrote “Every South facing roof is a potential Power Station” in January 2011. 

Waltham Forest Council got HM Treasury approval for Prudential Borrowing of £9 million to fit Solar Photo-Electric Panels to 1,000 Council houses and some of its big buildings. This way the income of up to £2 million is to the Council.

The project was reported on the “Waltham Forest Guardian” website on Thursday 3rd November 2011. The government announced the Tariff cut the next week and the scheme was put on hold. During the new round of number crunching, several colleagues became redundant.

It was still viable! Two Contracts were let, each for 500 houses to be completed, by 31 March 2012 and as many as possible before the Tariff cut. Letters went to tenants late in January 2012 outlining the scheme. 688 were done by Friday 2nd March 2012, when the Tariff cut began.

Energy efficiency is Investing to Save. Costs are coming down, but future projects will become more complex and demand more skill. UNISON needs to shout more about being the Construction Professionals Union.

It is generally believed that renewable electricity from roofs cannot be supplied to flat and maisonette tenants. This blockage needs removing. 
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