RE:CONNECT – did it work?
RE:CONNECT was the Mayor of London’s Low Carbon Zones programme that ran between September 2009 and September 2012. It aimed to deliver a 20% saving in carbon dioxide emissions (on a 1990 baseline) in 10 varied neighbourhoods in London, and to put them on a path to a 60% reduction by 2025, in line with the Mayor’s CO2 emissions reduction target.
RE:CONNECT aimed to reduce emissions in three types of buildings: homes, community and public sector buildings, and businesses and commercial buildings.
The Greater London Authority commissioned CSE to use the reported carbon-saving data from each Zone to analyse the project’s success. The primary aim of this analysis was to report the outcomes of the programme and draw out findings and learning to take forward in designing future carbon-saving programmes.
Our report concentrated on the carbon-saving aspects of the programme. It presented findings from analysis of the data collected during the programme and from interviews conducted with a selection of RE:CONNECT stakeholders.
What was achieved?
- Two Zones managed to hit the 20% reduction target, with another Zone coming very close (19.5%).
- Total annual emissions reductions from RE:CONNECT are an estimated 12,600 t.CO2, with two-thirds of this total coming from the residential sector.
- The Zones that achieved the highest relative CO2 emissions reductions were those that managed to secure significant amounts of additional funding on top of the initial GLA seed funding.
- In total, £33.5m of additional funding was secured across the 10 Zones, with an average ratio of £12 of additional funding for every £1 of RE:CONNECT funding.
- GLA seed funding was directly responsible for a total of approximately 2,100 t.CO2 emissions reduction, with additional funding resulting in a further 10,500 t.CO2 across the Zones.
- Over 4,000 homes were retrofitted in the Low Carbon Zones.
- Energy saving measures installed in homes resulted in estimated total energy bill savings of over £1.1m per year for householders across the ten Zones.
- Projects that focused on retrofitting social housing (and in particular retrofitting high density housing such as high-rise tower blocks or low-rise estates) resulted in considerable emissions savings.
- Zones which achieved large emissions reductions in the non-domestic sector were those focusing on generally larger buildings, such as hospitals, leisure centres and libraries.
Home energy assessments led to success
All Zones conducted domestic energy assessments as a method of auditing and implementing household behavioural change. This was consistently noted by interviewees as being particularly successful in terms of engaging householders, and leading to the installation of simple, low-cost energy efficiency measures. The most successful domestic projects also seemed to benefit from a simple yet flexible approach. For example, projects where households received a customised service following an energy assessment, and were provided with a series of relevant measures that had been identified as being beneficial to their homes. and the evaluation also noted the benefit and positive impact of door-to-door, face-to-face engagement with households.
However, to maximise CO2 reductions, engagement and installation of simple energy-saving measures needs to translate into further measures being installed. High levels of assessments did not always translate into further cost-effective measures being installed. This was particularly the case in areas with high levels of private solid walled properties where the significantly higher costs and disruption involved in installing solid wall insulation were prohibitive at the time for most households.
The most successful Zones at getting people to take up energy-saving measures were those that had relatively high numbers of homes with loft and cavity walls that needed insulating, which is much easier and cheaper to install. They targeted the home energy assessments on private housing that needed loft and cavity wall insulation and boilers, and offered subsidies on these improvements.