By Claire West
Hundreds of public buildings such as fire stations, hospitals and offices will be helped to get an energy makeover and save cash off fuel bills following a £2.7 million boost for the Mayor's RE:FIT climate change programme.
RE:FIT is the Mayor of London's innovative scheme that helps public organisations to give their buildings an energy overhaul - this can include fitting of solar panels, insulation and smart meters. The cash boost follows a successful bid to the European Investment Bank's Elena (European Local Energy Assistance) fund for a grant of 2.8m Euros (approx £2.4m). The Mayor will also provide an additional 320,000 Euros (£270,000) for the programme. This funding will pay for a team to help hundreds more public buildings use the programme for an eco-overhaul. It is estimated the money could help organisations retrofit up to 600 buildings with energy efficiency measures.
Speaking on the last day of Climate Week, Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, said:
“This is really fantastic news for taxpayers and also for our efforts to protect the environment against climate change. Londoners will now benefit from hundreds of public buildings, many at the heart of their communities, becoming more energy efficient. These eco-makeovers will help organisations conserve precious public funds at a time when every extra penny counts."
Organisations using RE:FIT can cut out the red tape and associated costs that would normally have to be undertaken before any major building works in the public sector. Instead, using the ready-to-use RE:FIT model, organisations can choose a contractor from a pre-vetted list that will offer a guaranteed energy saving upfront, allowing the organisation to pay back costs using the predicted fuel bill savings thereby making the overall project cost neutral. So far the programme has helped 42 GLA group buildings - police, fire and Transport for London - to be given a green makeover, reducing carbon emissions savings a million a year in energy costs.
RE:FIT has interest from 140 organisations whilst 14 organisations are currently working with the RE:FIT team in detail to treat 200 buildings to the combined value £30 million, which would equate to approximately 26,400 tonnes of carbon savings annually. Included in this batch, is the London Fire Brigade which confirmed earlier this week, it would be using RE:FIT to revamp another ten of its fire stations (after an initial ten), help cut energy bills by £80,000 a year, saving a total of 440 tonnes of carbon each year. Hammersmith Fire Station alone will see its carbon emissions reduced by as much as 44 per cent.
This new money will help organisations progress their RE:FIT projects, and help them source funding for upfront building works where necessary. For example, the London Green Fund is seeking to launch later this year a spin-off fund in invest in energy efficiency infrastructure. The fund will be valued at least £50 million.
RE:FIT is open for any public sector building to use. It is estimated if all the public sector buildings in London used this model, they could save around £500 million off bills. It will help to create 'green-collar' jobs and the growth of London's low carbon economy.
RE:FIT, developed by the London Development Agency (LDA), has now been adopted by the University of London, Newham University Hospital and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and Waltham Forest PCT. The London Development Agency is also liaising with public sector organisations outside of London which wish to use the framework. So far, six organisations have expressed an interest in the REFIT framework and are now receiving advice from the LDA team to develop their plans - these local authorities are: Leeds City Council, Sheffield City Council, Southampton, Milton Keynes, Oxford, Reading and Portsmouth.
London is the first city in the world to appoint an approved panel of energy savings companies that undertake energy audits, identify energy savings measures and installs them. As well as developing the pipeline of buildings for the REFIT programme, the Elena funding will ensure hands on support and guidance to participating organisations to help them through the process. This funding is now subject to contract being finalised by both parties.