ECO funding needs overhaul to reflect upfront costs of deep retrofit

The history of PAS 2035 dates back to 2015 when Dr Peter Bonfield, then Chief Executive of BRE, was asked to lead a project of industry experts to review the way in which public and privately funded domestic retrofit projects were delivered. His report, Each Home Counts, was published in 2016 and became a watershed moment for our energy efficiency industry.

The report made 27 recommendations covering Consumer Protection, Advice and Guidance, Quality and Standards, Skills and Training and Compliance and Enforcement, Insulation and Fabric, Smart Meters, Home Energy Technologies and Application to Social Housing. From this 15 new Industry led Working Groups were introduced to investigate the way forward to provide viable solutions to all these recommendations.

A criticism of past and current energy efficiency policies is that they often happen in isolation simply to maximise the grant funding opportunity. They take little heed of what is best for the home, or for its occupants. Each Home Counts wanted to ensure that the installed measures are the ‘best’ and ‘most appropriate’ to the home and the family occupying the home.

PAS 2035

From the Quality and Standards working group BSI were asked to establish the PAS 2035 steering group which, nearly two years later, produced the PAS 2035 specification. PAS 2035 is a sister standard to the PAS 2030 installation specification and will ensure that;

  • Consumers receive good advice
  • Properties are assessed by trained qualified and competent Retrofit Assessors  who consider not only the energy saving opportunities but the condition of the property and its suitability for improvement.
  • Each property has a medium term improvement plan that outlines all the work than can be done to maximise energy efficiency potential. This will include essential maintenance that will, if not treated, undermine the effectiveness or durability of an installed measure.
  • Work done by designers and installers is overseen to ensure the energy efficiency potential of the home is being fulfilled
It is important to note that PAS 2030 is focussed on the quality of the installation and may, for some applications, be read and used in isolation of PAS 2035.

PAS 2035 is the overarching standard, which establishes good practice to ensure that the home achieves its energy efficiency potential. It was not written specifically for the purposes of ECO but rather for whenever the customer (whether that be private building owners, government through policies such as ECO or Local Authorities) requires it.

Moving to ECO. The aim of ECO is to reduce carbon emissions from our housing stock owned or occupied by those unable to pay for improvements themselves. It made good progress but the fabric first philosophy to reducing heat demand has not always been adopted. Replacing a boiler on an uninsulated house makes no sense, it is better to insulate first and then consider the replacement of the boiler.

Regrettably, on some properties where the fabric first philosophy has been adopted there have been failures. Either because the property was unsuitable, due to its design or poor state of repair, or because the installation was done badly. In some cases the failure was so severe that further funding was required to remediate the property.

The context for ECO has also changed in that the government has enshrined in law a commitment to achieve net zero carbon by 2050. To get anywhere near achieving this, it is necessary to ensure that the full potential of each property is achieved. Until now ECO has delivered an average of just over one measure per dwelling and it has been calculated that for our housing stock to achieve its full potential, within the timescales to achieve net zero carbon, that needs to increase to three measures per dwelling.

With the introduction of PAS 2035, with Retrofit Assessors and Retrofit Coordinators, we have a much greater chance of meeting these targets. The “cost of customer acquisition” will reduce as more measures will be installed into a smaller number of properties, there will be more work in preparing homes for improvement, and by ensuring that only suitable properties are targeted, the cost of failure and remediation will also decrease.

The major issue we have now is a misalignment between the revised process and the ECO funding mechanism. The industry needs to work with BEIS and OFGEM to ensure the good practices that PAS 2035 are adequately funded.

Elmhurst has today responded to the ECO3 consultation outlining our views set out above – click here to take a look at our full response

The process of writing standards is one of compromise with different factions arguing vociferously from their perspective. When consensus is finally achieved that usually means is that most people are unhappy about something. It is therefore not surprising that a revision is already being considered and Elmhurst will contribute, as it did to the writing of the current specification, to help ensure the recommendations are sound and the detail is practical.

Click to learn more about PAS 2035 or to train and be a Retrofit Assessor or Retrofit Coordinator.

The official ECO3 Consultation website:

Elmhurst's ECO Consultation Response:

 The Deadline 11.45pm, 6th Aug 2019 

Article published: 6th August 2019

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