The success of Energy Efficient Scotland is reliant on having an equipped supply chain performing high quality retrofitting work. However, the supply chain currently lacks the necessary skills and capacity to deliver retrofitting on the scale needed to achieve policy goals.
This event brought together colleagues from across Scottish Government, local authorities, the third sector, academia and industry, to discuss the challenges of engaging with supply chains and supporting the development of this capacity.
The first talk of the afternoon came from Ian Cuthbert from the Energy Saving Trust; he is currently seconded to Scottish Government to lead a Short Life Working Group (SLWG) for Skills and the Supply Chain. Ian outlined the SLWG’s recommendations according to five themes: quality; skills and capacity; consumer protection; procurement; and non-domestic.
He highlighted that Scottish Government are working to develop a delivery model that accounts for and builds on existing skills and accreditation amongst industry operatives, but also establishes a new designer role for coordinating complex retrofits. Ian drew comparison with the UK Government, who have followed the recommendations of the Bonfield Each Home Counts Review in developing a new industry standard (PAS 2035) and are currently proposing that all operatives are accredited to this standard.
Dr David Jenkins, from Heriot Watt University then outlined his work on the consistency and quality of EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) ratings and future energy assessment. His work used a mystery shoppers approach to understand what happens when the same properties are assessed by different EPC assessors. The study found a wide range of EPCs for the same property, with nearly two thirds of households showing variation across two or more energy bands.
David highlighted that there were challenges with current accreditation approaches, with some assessors becoming accredited with 7-9 days training and no prior experience of working on the built environment. He recommended a tiered assessor accreditation approach, which might include lighter requirements for some elements of retrofit (for example, loft insulation), and more stringent requirements for more complex work (to the building fabric, for example).
Louise Cox, who is an Economic Development Officer at Scottish Borders Council presented a local authority perspective on supporting supply chains. She emphasised that the Council’s Low Carbon Economic Strategy includes the requirement ‘to develop a workforce equipped with low carbon skills & awareness’. Through engagement with local supply chains, Louise and colleagues have identified a need for more streamlined procurement procedures, noting that current tools are complex and time-consuming for some tradespeople.
The Council have developed recommendations for how to encourage low carbon supply chains, including: minimising the administrative burden for small businesses; strengthening the capacity of local businesses through improved communication; and strengthening support for administration and accreditation. Discussion following this presentation highlighted the need to strengthen and simplify messages about low carbon skills and training, and that a face-2-face approach is critical for engaging these groups.
After a short break, Henry Myers from the Heat and the City team at the University of Edinburgh presented work exploring the communication and trust at play in supply chains for energy retrofitting. He introduced the role of network brokers, who can manage the coordination between otherwise unconnected members of the supply chain. Henry highlighted the potential role of brokers in sharing risk and aligning the interest of actors, but also noted that these groups might be less trusted if they do not share risk and interests.
For the delivery of Energy Efficient Scotland, Henry noted that it will be critical to engage with brokers who have a vested interest in a project and can communicate effectively with both industry and householders. One workshop participant suggested that this work mirrored his own experiences within the supply chain, and that trust was absolutely critical for collaborative working across supply chain organisations. This was also related to Louise’s presentation, with a discussion around whether public procurement frameworks might play a role in diminishing trust.
To close, Diarmid Turnbull from the Energy Agency presented their work on developing a Trusted Trader list as part of the work they are doing on the Energy Efficient Scotland Transition Programme pilot. Their list aims to provide an accessible online tool for householders to visit in order to identify trusted traders in their area. Tradespeople and companies are added to the list following a vetting process, including checking whether they hold at least one relevant qualification; existing installer relationships; and customer reviews.
Diarmid highlighted the value of such a list for customers, but also that it is time consuming to develop and maintain a list of this type. Discussion after this talk queried the role of consumer reviews (which might change some time after retrofitting activity), and how a list of this nature would be distinguished by consumers from Check-a-Trade type sites which businesses can pay to be a part of.
Dr Keith Baker, from Glasgow Caledonian University, presented work on the accuracy of EPCs. His work has demonstrated that SAP (the Standard Assessment Procedure underpinning EPC ratings) is not an accurate modelling tool for understanding energy consumption in existing homes. He has proposed an alternative approach to EPC’s themselves – emphasising that additional contextual information is required, and suggesting that a Soft Landings approach could be incorporated.
The final discussion included reflections from: Jo Wright from Scottish Government, who managed the skills and the supply chain SWLG; Donna Marshall from Changeworks; and Martyn Raine from SNIPEF (the Scottish and Northern Ireland Plumbing Employers’ Federation). This raised some challenges around ensuring that there are clear and consistent messages for consumers; and making sure that supply chain actors are adequately supported on upskilling and accreditation journeys. The discussion highlighted the role of a variety of sectors in engaging with and contributing to the development of supply chains for energy efficient retrofitting.
Energy retrofitting in Scotland: skills and the supply chain