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Communal heating and power generation in social housing

As energy efficiency becomes an increasing priority for both housing providers and residents, community energy projects and district heating can help to reduce both energy bills and carbon emissions.

Social housing that underpins quality, affordable and sustainable communities for residents is the ultimate goal for RSLs. Homes that deliver greater energy efficiency form an increasingly integral part of this wider goal and, as a result, are a growing priority for both housing providers and residents.

Projects that embrace renewable energy and improved efficiency on a community level have the scope to deliver greater savings for both landlords and residents than those on individual homes, as well as helping to address fuel poverty and reducing carbon footprint.

Research from property agent Jackson-Stops found that 92% of both prospective home owners and tenants looked to finding a sustainable community as a deciding factor when choosing where to live.

Data from Sustainable Homes also showed that better energy efficiency measures had a significant positive impact on reducing the length of time that a property remains void. On average, properties with an EPC rating of B or above stood empty over 30% less time than those rated E or F.

Communal Heating and Electricity

District and communal heating projects lend themselves particularly well to affordable housing, well-suited to both new developments and as a refurbishment for existing stock.

Projects, such as heat pumps, offer low-cost heating for residents while consolidating maintenance and administration for housing providers. Managed solutions relieves housing associations of much of the burden of co-ordinating with suppliers, while lower energy costs for residents reduces debt risk and rent arrears.

While the upfront expense of a project can see service charges sometimes increase, the reduced heating costs mean that residents are still paying around 30% less for their heating, even factoring in the rise in service charge, according to figures published by Inside Housing.

Community generation schemes, most commonly solar, allow for large-scale generation to be provided across a substantial number of homes, offering residents a reduction in both their energy bills and carbon footprints, while increasing community resilience and mitigating the impact of fuel poverty both on living standards and rent arrears.

The Department of International Trade put the savings per household for community solar projects at £240 annually. Solar power or hot water systems also reduce the wear and tear on kit, such as boilers, cutting down the need for service and repairs.

Potential Drawbacks

Projects of this nature are not without their own issues, however, particularly when solutions are selected ad-hoc rather than as part of a wider, holistic approach to overhauling energy management.

In some developments, individual properties have been left with multiple meters to track.  For example, hot water, cold water, heat and electricity, further exacerbating the issues surrounding large numbers of manual meters that many housing providers already face.

For residents, the upfront costs of a particular scheme must be accounted for, potentially resulting in increased service charges, while a community energy or heating project can also reduce their autonomy when it comes to selecting their own energy supplier and tariff.

With an increasing range of community generation projects available, find the one that provides the best fit for your organisation and residents by speaking to our team of experts on 08451 46 36 26.