‘We need to find out what works first’ – retrofitting homes picks up speed in Wales

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Five retrofitting projects across Wales that have secured support under the new Optimised Retrofit Programme have been announced.

Announced in August, the Optimised Retrofit programme will test a new approach to decarbonising Welsh homes, based on the recommendations of the Jofeh Report published in July 2019.

Initially £9.5m was available for this financial year but the budget was later increased to £19.5m.

Julie James MS, Minister for Housing and Local Government, commented on the programme: “It is far more sophisticated and bespoke than previous schemes because it takes into account the fabric or materials our homes are made from; the way we heat and store energy in our homes and the way energy is supplied to our homes.

“Some of the upgrades that are to be trialled through projects this year will include heat pumps, intelligent energy systems and solar panels.

“All supported schemes are planning to include off gas grid properties where the challenges of decarbonisation are even greater.

“The intention is not to upgrade all homes to zero carbon this year but to learn how to upgrade homes well, at an optimised cost, setting us on the right path towards the decarbonisation of all homes in Wales.”

Four schemes are from local authorities – Denbighshire, Ynys Mon, Carmarthenshire and the Vale of Glamorgan.

The fifth is a consortium involving 27 social housing providers from across Wales, led by Pobl Housing Group and managed by Sero Homes.

As well as establishing 1,300 homes on the pathway to being net zero for carbon output, the consortium is developing much-needed tools and resources which can be used to roll out the large scale decarbonisation of all homes across Wales. This includes the creation of open frameworks for the supply of materials and labour.

Minister James continued: “I am not going to pretend that £20m is going to come anywhere close to decarbonising Welsh homes.

“Everyone recognises that huge amounts of money will be needed, and experience shows that throwing money at the problem just does not work.

“We need to understand what works first. Most of the cost of retrofit will come from private sources and not the public purse, it is therefore essential that we learn how to retrofit homes well to give confidence to investors.

“This programme will give us a much clearer picture about the true costs and create the approach and an industry to decarbonise all 1.4 million homes in Wales by 2050.”

The Optimised Retrofit Programme will set the standard for retrofit schemes in Wales, including existing programmes such as the Welsh Housing Quality Standard (WHQS) with around 300,000 social and fuel poor homes potentially over the next 10 years.

The work started in over 1,700 homes this financial year will help tenants and the environment by reducing the amount of carbon produced in powering and heating homes.

Besides this, Welsh colleges have already begun developing retrofit academies in readiness, and the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) has begun developing accredited standards for the training.