15 things that we learnt from Community Green Deal

Our ‘Powering Down Together’, is published to coincide with Community Energy Fortnight 2017. It reports on the retrofit of 12 owner-occupied solid-walled homes typical of Manchester’s housing stock. Read the summary report here (http://bit.ly/2hFULYf) and the full version here.(http://bit.ly/2vIZsGe)
Here are 15 things that we have learnt from the project:

1.You can halve your home’s energy usage!
The project demonstrated that by retrofitting the fabric of homes and installing low-carbon generation, cuts of 40-60% or more can be made in domestic energy consumption and emissions. Gas use was very nearly halved.

2. It is possible to generate your all own electricity!
For most participants, PV panels generate approximately as much electricity as the household uses. But timing of generation and consumption are out of sync which means householders effectively ‘self-consume’ 50% or less of the energy produced on their homes.

3.Whole House maximises energy savings!
By looking at the whole dwelling and developing an integrated specification, the designers were able to ensure measures were not working against each other or introducing problems elsewhere in the building.

4.You could save up to £1,100 a year on your bills (or more)!
After retrofit, energy bills fell decisively, with households saving from £200 (off an already small bill) up to £650 per year. Adding income from solar PV Feed-in Tariff, savings effectively rose to between £800 and £1,100 per year!

5.Interest rates matter!
The 0% finance offered in Community Green Deal was particularly successful in drawing people, as its provided accessible and affordable finance. Over £250,000 worth of loans were issued.

6.People trust experience
Householders were drawn to the project because of the technical expertise and contract management offered. People were looking for technical information and design advice and we provided it!

7. Building crews are ready to learn.
On-site training for construction crews and regular visits by the design team supported high quality installation – and improved job satisfaction for tradespeople. We’ve shown the UK construction workforce is readily able to develop the specialist skills required to carry out this type of retrofit.

8. The ECO funding is not working.
ECO funding imposed a disproportionate burden on the project in a number of ways and the funding came with highly restrictive criteria, limiting the choice of contractor and of materials that could be used in the project.

9. Sustainability is good business!
Every £1 invested in energy efficiency is estimated to return £3.20 to the wider economy and if a local supply chain is used that benefit helps develop local economies.

10. It all comes down to our willingness.
The obstacles to retrofit are political and administrative, not technical or financial. Government support would make it a great deal easier to cut domestic energy use and help meet the UK’s wider decarbonisation goals.

11. Retrofit helps tackling fuel poverty
Fuel poverty is caused by low incomes, high energy prices and inefficient housing. Retrofitting helps reduce energy usage, tackling one of the key causes of fuel poverty.

12. UK is the land of cold homes.
Despite a recent focus on insulation, only a tiny proportion of solid-walled homes in the UK so far have insulation and whole-house retrofit remains vanishingly rare.

13. No support from the state
The government stopped actively funding the Green Deal in July 2015. There is currently no national scheme promoting whole house retrofit and no incentives to encourage able-to-pay households to retrofit their homes to save energy and carbon.

14. Bottom up approaches are more effective
Past large scale programmes have tended to be geared towards the needs of big corporate construction firms. Carbon Co-op engages the wider community working with early adopter householders who want to make a change in their area.

15. Partial retrofit may not save energy at all!
Research by Jenny Love of University of Salford found that if occupants change their energy use behaviour after a ‘moderate’ energy efficient retrofit there is a significant risk that energy use will actually increase.

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