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Mayor visits Coventry to see homes get energy saving upgrades

Published: Thursday 13 Jul 2023

Significant improvements are being made to the energy efficiency of hundreds more homes across the West Midlands to help householders cut fuel bills and carbon emissions.

The latest scheme will see a further 282 homes across the region retrofitted with highly efficient loft and wall insulation as well as other fuel reduction measures, thanks to Government funding secured by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and Orbit Housing.

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and WMCA Chair, has visited Coventry to see how work is progressing on some of the first homes in the city being retrofitted as part of Orbit’s regionwide decarbonisation programme.

The WMCA, Orbit and VINCI Facilities Building Solutions are working together on a fabric first, deep retrofit approach using energy efficient doors and windows, loft and wall insulation, ventilation, some low carbon heating and solar PV to increase the energy performance of the homes it manages.

The Mayor also met residents to discuss how the project will enable them to warm their homes, cut their energy bills, and make a contribution to the region’s #WM2041 ambition of being net zero within the next 20 years.

One of those residents, Caroline Davies, has lived in her home in Finham in Coventry since 2010. She said: “The house was draughty, and like everyone else, our energy bills have gone up a lot recently so it’s really positive that something is being done about it. It’s great to be among the first to benefit and I hope many more residents can too.

“Our home currently has an ‘E’ energy performance rating and with all the things being done I’ve been told that will significantly improve. I have no specific expectations about savings but hope I will be pleasantly surprised by whatever effect it has on my bills. But it’s more than just about the cost of our heating bills, we need to take action on climate change and this will contribute to that too.”

Ross Jago, project manager at Vinci; Paul Richards, group director of customer and communities at Orbit, Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and WMCA chair; Caroline Davies; Jeanette Hodges, head of carbon and operations at Orbit; Westley Brunt, sector manager at Vinci.

Ross Jago, project manager at Vinci; Paul Richards, group director of customer and communities at Orbit, Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and WMCA chair; Caroline Davies; Jeanette Hodges, head of carbon and operations at Orbit; Westley Brunt, sector manager at Vinci.

The Mayor added: “It was great to see the progress we’re making with Orbit - and all our local authority partners and housing providers - to identify and upgrade the homes like Caroline’s that are most in need of better insulation and to use the latest green heating technology.

“So far, we’ve secured £35 million from central Government to retrofit almost 4,000 homes across our region - saving local people money on their bills and reducing domestic emissions in line with our #WM2041 net zero commitment.

“After this encouraging start, we’re keen to do even more to deliver warmer, more energy efficient homes for our residents.

“In March 2023, we concluded a new Deeper Devolution Deal with Government that will open up more sustained funding from Whitehall.

Simultaneously, we’re doing more to upskill engineers via free training as we work to progress towards retrofitting entire streets and neighbourhoods in the months and years ahead. We will also be using additional funding from the private sector.”

The £35 million of Government retrofit funding secured by the WMCA for the region is being matched by a further £35 million from registered social housing providers and is being used to upgrade social and privately-owned homes by people on low incomes.

As part of this, Orbit will retrofit 282 homes across the West Midlands thanks to successful bids led by the WMCA to the Government’s Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund (SHDF) Waves 1 and 2.1, along with an additional £8m investment from Orbit.

As well as securing Government funding, the WMCA is funding bootcamps to give existing engineers and others with the skills and knowledge to install green technologies such as heat pumps, solar panels and super-efficient insulation.

The WMCA is also participating in the Government-funded Pioneer Places programme, which is looking at ways of attracting more private and public sector funding to decarbonise entire neighbourhoods.

Cllr John Cotton, WMCA portfolio lead for environment and energy, and leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “Homes are the highest carbon emitters, ahead of industry and transport, which is why the combined authority and its partners are so determined to ramp up our retrofit activity.

“The Government funding we’ve worked together to secure for the West Midlands so far, along with the additional investment from housing providers, will help deliver that commitment to provide residents with homes that are both warmer and more energy efficient.”

Paul Richards, group director of customer and communities at Orbit, said: “We were delighted to welcome Andy Street and our colleagues from WMCA to see how our retrofitting works in Coventry are progressing.

“Committing to a deep retrofit while customers remain living in their home is a complex undertaking, but it plays a key role in delivering on our net zero carbon targets and keeping bills affordable.

“Despite the complexities and challenges of upgrading older properties, we are working at pace and have already completed 205 of the 346 energy efficiency measures planned to be installed in the 70 properties included under Wave 1, meaning we’re almost 60% complete.

“Showcasing our progress as well as discussing our learnings with the Mayor will help us all to continue to work together to ensure our customers enjoy the benefits of a more energy efficient home which is warmer and more affordable, and help us on our collective journey towards achieving net zero.”

Barry Boxall, regional director VINCI Facilities Building Solutions said: “We are delighted that our successful partnership with Orbit has facilitated the delivery of retrofit solutions to 70 properties, increasing the warmth and energy efficiency of residents’ homes.

“We have built a trusted relationship with all stakeholders that enables us to deliver retrofit at scale. We are working in collaboration with our supply chain partners to develop local skills to meet the pipeline of projects in Coventry and the surrounding areas. This showcase event demonstrates the willingness of all stakeholders to truly work together to build thriving communities.”

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