The National Insulation Association’s Parliamentary Day, which was recently sponsored by SBS, has been hailed as a resounding success.
The exclusive invitation-only event took place on Monday 6th June and, as we reported in our previous news article, it spanned two London venues: Broadway House and the House of Commons Terrace.
The key message taken from the day was that there is unprecedented demand and commitment from government towards funding insulation and energy efficiency measures. However, there are still challenges for the industry and for stakeholders to overcome in the coming years.
Over 130 delegates were in attendance, representing the insulation industry in the United Kingdom, including suppliers, manufacturers, system designers and installers of insulation measures, alongside industry stakeholders and government officials and ministers.
NIA General Meeting
SBS owner, Derek Horrocks, is current chair of the NIA, and in that capacity, he led many of the proceedings. He provided the introduction to the NIA General Meeting at Broadway House and offered a welcome to a near-capacity audience, thanking them for making the journey under what had proved to be difficult circumstances.
He noted that despite widespread train cancellations and a London tube strike, nearly all the registered delegates had managed to attend – a clear testament to the importance of the meeting at this crucial period in the industry’s development.
At the initial meeting, the NIA’s own Senior Low Carbon Consultant Fiona Chestnutt gave an update on the NIA’s progress, the challenges facing the industry and the scale of the opportunities that could lie ahead. She discussed the role of insulation in the road to net zero, and its increasing profile in a context of fast-rising energy costs and the high volume of properties with poor EPCs that still need to be retrofitted.
These were themes that were expanded upon in the next session, to which speakers from three particularly important bodies had been invited.
The Governmental Perspective
The first of these was Ffiona Hesketh, Deputy Director (Net Zero Buildings) at the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS). She began by outlining progress to date – through steps such as the Green Homes Grant Voucher scheme, the Local Authority Delivery scheme (LAD), the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund (SHDF) Demonstrator and Wave 1, the Home Upgrade Grant Phase 1 and the transition to the PAS 2035 standards.
She discussed the scale of the net zero challenge and the need for upskilling workers to give the industry the capacity and the quality controls to deliver the necessary works. She also laid out timescales for current and upcoming capital schemes, including provision for the decarbonisation of public buildings.
The Quality Perspective
Next to speak was Simon Ayers, Chief Executive Officer of TrustMark. His presentation, titled “Driving Quality Delivery”, explained the role and importance of the TrustMark framework, the code of conduct, the technical standards and the customer charter.
One of the most striking elements of his presentation was a numerical breakdown of the national challenge. He noted that between 24 and 27 million homes need retrofitting, which would mean treating “2,300 homes per day, 7 days a week, for the next 28 years.” Clearly, the sector faces a monumental task; one that will demand multi-party collaboration and engagement.
The Skills Perspective
The third of the key speakers was David Pierpoint, Chief Executive Officer of The Retrofit Academy CIC. The organisation is the leading UK body for retrofit qualifications, particularly with regard to meeting the needs of the new PAS standards.
Acknowledging the scale of the task, he confirmed the Academy’s mission: “to support the development of 200,000 competent retrofitters by 2030.” He also made the important point that “Our retrofit supply chain is embryonic – much of the funding is unspent because we lack the capacity and capability to deliver.” This shortfall in capacity needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.
This first part of the day’s proceedings ended with a Q&A session. Delegates then took a break before reconvening at 6:30pm at the House of Commons Pavilion Terrace.
NIA Chair Derek Horrocks opened the second session with a welcome to the many additional guests who had joined: suppliers, stakeholder partners, clients and a variety of retrofit professionals: assessors, designers and coordinators. He then introduced Bim Afolami, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, who spoke about the role of energy efficiency in meeting net zero targets by 2050.
This topic was expanded upon by Lord Callanan, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Minister for Business, Energy and Corporate Responsibility. He explained the governmental perspective on energy efficiency priorities and the role of insulation in working towards the net zero target.
Lord Callanan also led the following Q&A session, which provoked lively debate and informed discussions about some of the key challenges that NIA members now face.
The availability of new funding was broadly welcomed and recognised as a major opportunity, although members emphasised that in order to remain effective in the coming years, it must not be subject to the sort of ‘stop-start’ decisions that have characterised previous forms of funding for energy efficiency and decarbonisation measures. It was essential, they said, to ensure that the funding steams retain real longevity and consistency.
Both events led to discussion around the scale of the net zero challenge. While the funding marks an important step, it was noted that a key obstacle could be a lack of labour to deliver the necessary works.
Ministers and industry professionals have suggested that the 28-year process of decarbonisation could create hundreds of thousands of skilled jobs in the industry. However, even if training were to remain well-funded and widely available, members asked where new workers might actually be found. Installers – whether trained or ready to train – are badly needed but, in the wake of Brexit and the departure of many skilled labourers to Europe, the pool of potential recruits has shrunk markedly.
Further challenges, noted by many members, included international supply chain restrictions, product shortages and the rising costs of many materials. For some others, the requirement to transition to the new standards was proving a barrier to market-entry and would take time to address.
The NIA General Meeting and the subsequent session at the House of Commons proved to be an excellent platform for discussing issues of real importance to the industry. It gave delegates an insight into governmental commitment to the decarbonisation agenda, to the substantial funding that that has been put in place, and to the roadmap towards 2050.
There are certainly significant challenges ahead, and the industry doesn’t yet have complete solutions for all of them, but a key message from the events was this: now is a time of great opportunity, and the need for to roll out large-scale energy efficiency works has never been more acute.
Co-sponsors of the event included the external wall insulation manufacturers PermaRock Products Limited and Sto.