Restoring consumer confidence leads the way at NIA Annual Conference

The event was attended by NIA members as well as external guests from across the sector
The event was attended by NIA members as well as external guests from across the sector
The event was attended by NIA members as well as external guests from across the sector
The event was attended by NIA members as well as external guests from across the sector

Thursday 3rd December 2015 saw around 250 delegates meet in Hinckley at the National Insulation Association’s (NIA) Annual Conference to hear about key developments within the insulation industry; NIA’s activities to support its members and Government policies and regulations and schemes that will impact the industry in the short, medium and long term.

The Conference was opened by the NIA’s chair, Tony Hardiman MBE who welcomed members and external guests and set out the agenda for the day, which he hoped delegates would find informative and interactive. He thanked all the Sponsors for their support in ensuring the event was possible. He stressed that 2015 had been a ‘challenging year’ for the industry especially with recent policy changes but that the NIA team had been working hard to support its members in a number of key areas including improvements to the design of schemes and business generation.

NIA’s chief executive, Neil Marshall, then took to the stage and briefed members on key developments in policies, programmes and regulations that were likely to impact upon their businesses. He then set out NIA’s comprehensive and ambitious plans for 2016 to support its members in maximising business opportunities and positioning NIA members as the preferred choice to carry out work with consumers, funders and specifiers. Priority work areas included influencing Government and energy companies policies and schemes, helping members access opportunities in all market sectors including; new build, commercial, SMEs and alternative sources of funding. Promoting the benefits of insulation and restoring consumer confidence through the development of new quality assurance frameworks for insulation measures and ensuring members were provided with timely information, advice and guidance to aid their business planning.

The next session comprised officials from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), Scottish Government and Welsh Government who updated delegates on their current and future energy efficiency policies and programmes. During their presentations the officials commented on the importance and value of the input and advice provided by the NIA.

Richard Mellish from DECC advised that the three goals of the UK Government are a secure, affordable and clean energy policy. He gave details of the new 5 year supplier obligation from April 2017 and explained that DECC were committed to simplifying and reducing the administrative costs of the obligation. He added that whilst the new obligation will be focussed on fuel poor households DECC was committed to working with the NIA and others in finding ways to effectively drive the uptake of insulation among able to pay households.

Scott Cameron from the Scottish Government then spoke about their approach in Scotland, which derived from their sustainable housing strategy launched in 2013 and worked on the basis of information, incentives and regulation. Their priority has been installing solid wall insulation and hard to treat cavities adopting an area based approach to ensure all households receive help in a systematic and effective manner and plugging any gaps that exist. He explained that the Scottish Government had designated energy efficiency an infrastructure priority and was now kicking off work on its new long term ‘Scotland’s Energy Efficiency Programme’ which would include input from the NIA.

Francois Samuel, head of building regulations policy Welsh Government, highlighted the Welsh Governments approach to energy efficiency and the critical role it had to play in reducing bills, tackling fuel poverty and climate change whilst stimulating the economy. He explained that to date, energy efficiency activity in Wales had provided a £2 return for every £1 invested.

Tony Hardiman summed up the session by thanking the speakers for their comprehensive updates and pointing out that where a holistic approach to energy efficient retrofit had been adopted excellent results had been achieved – lessons could be learned.

Derek Horrocks, chairman of Sustainable Group (UK), headline sponsors of the conference commented in his address to delegates: “The industry has seen some tough times in the last 2 years which has been due to inconsistent levels of quality and installations from inexperienced companies due partly to light touch accreditation and the start stop nature of Government policies which has now caused a doubt in consumer confidence.”

He added: “A major part of my work with the NIA over the next 12 months will be to do with quality and standards and ensuring the customer receives the quality of installation they deserve. The Bonfield review provides the opportunity to show the excellent work the NIA currently undertakes and it’s the customer that is to be put back at the forefront and the heart of what we do.”

The key note address this year was from Dr Peter Bonfield who has been appointed by Government to lead an independent review of consumer protection, advice, standards and enforcement for UK housing energy efficiency and he commented on his review so far: “Key is building trust for consumers, my review will be published in March 2016 but already groups have been set up to start work in areas that are needed. The NIA has a huge role to play and can make a real difference to move the industry forward and I’m pleased with the NIAs planned reforms to quality and standards.” He added: “Reputation with insulation is imperative and must be addressed at by the industry to build consumer confidence.”

This was then followed by a panel session with external speakers including; Damian Coulton group commercial director, Energy Saving Trust; Graham Weller, head of policy and compliance, British Gas; Steve Cole, policy leader, National Housing Federation and Claire Curtis-Thomas, chief executive, British Board of Agrément.

The final session of the day was an informative talk about the mass roll out of SMART meters and the opportunities this presented from Rosie McGlynn, head of smart energy and networks programme from Energy UK.

Summing up the day, Tony Hardiman, chair of the NIA, commented: “There are significant opportunities and today has provided our members with up to date information and advice to help with business planning and accessing these opportunities. Our aim is to ensure that our members are provided with information and guidance to provide them with a competitive edge versus non-member companies”

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