Councils gain innovative grants to scale up green home upgrades
Seven leading local authorities’ efforts to make homes in their areas greener and more energy efficient have been boosted, with the award of £423,080 in grant funding from the MCS Foundation.
The UK’s twenty-nine million homes are in urgent need of retrofitting – making them more energy efficient and installing renewable energy – to meet climate change targets. Local authorities, who have skills development and housing on their agenda, are key to making this happen.
Yet many councils lack the funding, knowledge or capacity to build effective retrofitting programmes.
The MCS Foundation, which has previously awarded grants to the Church of England to help them decarbonise their estate and funded research on the financial value that renewable energy can add to homes, has now stepped in to help local authorities meet this challenge.
Having invited local authorities to bid for funding to support their retrofitting ambitions, the MCS Foundation selected the most promising programmes to award grant funding and expert advice.
Among the projects to receive cash are council-led efforts to train up a generation of retrofit workers to meet skills gaps in Neath Port Talbot. The need for more skilled workers to insulate and install renewable energy in homes is a key priority for the retrofit industry, and Neath Port Talbot’s work with colleges to provide further and vocational education courses in this sector is a model that other councils can adopt.
While Neath Port Talbot is supporting supply-side development, a partnership of Devon councils is addressing a barrier to demand, by helping homeowners access advice on how to go about retrofitting their home and what funding is available to them. The Energy Saving Devon programme will also include support for quality assurance so that consumers can have confidence in the traders they use. A partnership of Somerset councils is similarly developing a programme to provide advice to households looking to improve their home, as is Stroud District Council through its Low-Carbon Communities project.
Leeds and Manchester City Councils are translating green ambitions into schemes designed to retrofit entire areas of their cities. Working with the private sector and with community interest companies respectively, these two councils are finding channels for 0% loans and other innovative financing options to be offered to home-owners wishing to retrofit their homes. Oxford City Council, meanwhile, is piloting ways to capitalise on high levels of community engagement in particular areas of the city to support retrofitting at scale.
The MCS Foundation’s grants for these projects covering skills, consumer advice, and retrofitting finance will help overcome some of the key barriers to retrofitting at a local level, and enable councils to begin scaling up their crucial work to upgrade homes.
The MCS Foundation will be an active partner to the local authorities, providing knowledge, advice and support, and helping to share learning, including through a Local Authority Retrofit Forum, jointly run with the UK Green Building Council.
Alastair Mumford, Programme Director at the MCS Foundation, said “Many councils rightly see retrofitting homes as a top priority for tackling fuel poverty and the climate emergency. Yet, equally, many councils currently lack the capacity to scale up retrofitting programmes and help homeowners green their homes.
“This grant funding round from the MCS Foundation is a step towards bridging the gap between ambition and delivery. To achieve retrofitting at scale, we will need far greater funding and support from both public and private sectors.”
Notes to editors:
The grants awarded by the MCS Foundation are listed below:
Devon councils: The Energy Saving Devon partnership (partnership of all Devon councils including Exeter City Council) has been working to develop an innovative, best practice support service for homeowners to enable them to carry out the right retrofit and deliver carbon-savings as well as other benefits as determined by the homeowner: https://www.mcscharitablefoundation.org/exeter-city-council-retrofit-support-service
Neath Port Talbot: In response to the skills requirements to deliver the NPT Council-led ‘Homes As Power Stations’ project, MCS Foundation funding has been awarded to NPT Council to deliver a regional skills project across the Swansea Bay City Deal area. https://www.mcscharitablefoundation.org/neath-port-talbot-integrating-skills
Somerset: Delivered by Somerset councils, Somerset Independence Plus, Lendology, CSE and Somerset Climate Action Network, this project will design a permanent, over-arching, not-for-profit service for Retrofit Somerset to promote whole house retrofit to the ‘able to pay’ sector, at scale and at pace, within Somerset. https://www.mcscharitablefoundation.org/somerset-councils-retrofit-somerset
Manchester: Carbon Co-Op, an energy services and advocacy cooperative that helps people and communities to make radical reductions in home carbon emissions, have set up a partnership with Manchester City Council to pilot an area based whole house retrofit scheme in Levenshulme, Manchester, which takes a street-by-street approach and is funded through grants or 0% loans. https://www.mcscharitablefoundation.org/manchester-city-council-retrofit-supply-chain
Leeds: Leeds City Council has been working with the private sector, via the Prime Minister’s Business Council, since late 2022 to develop a blueprint to tackle the challenge of retrofitting. Leeds is leading an innovative area-based approach, aiming to design and create a smooth customer journey and new incentives or financial products, largely financed by the private sector, to remove barriers to entry. https://www.mcscharitablefoundation.org/leeds-city-council-innovative-programme-design
Stroud: Stroud District Council’s Low Carbon Communities project is the next step in The Retrofit Centre collaboration (one-stop advice/signposting and tools). The project looks to create ‘pockets’ of high activity, taking a ‘learn by doing’ approach and making the work visible across communities to nudge the development of social norms around the language and process of retrofit https://www.mcscharitablefoundation.org/stroud-low-carbon-communities
Oxford: Oxford City Council’s project will undertake detailed feasibility work to cost and plan an area specific retrofit pilot project across different tenure/ building types with high levels of community and stakeholder engagement. The pilot project will demonstrate retrofit at greater scale than previously delivered in Oxford and test the delivery model for future replication and expansion in Rose Hill and the rest of Oxford. https://www.mcscharitablefoundation.org/oxford-city-council-feasibility-to-support-oxford-rose-hill