A climate action charity is urging politicians in the North East to do more to ensure people in the region benefit from home energy efficiency upgrades.
According to Ashden, progress on improving housing stock has “stalled”, which it says will keep families trapped in fuel poverty – and waste the chance to create jobs in the region’s most deprived communities.
The charity cites a “massive drop” in government-funded projects to upgrade cold and draughty homes as a key concern.
In 2022/23, projects in the region drawing on the government’s ECO scheme – which supports work to insulate homes and install modern heating systems – were just 18% of the total reached in 2021/22. This means, it says, that households in the North East could be missing out on lifetime energy savings of over £50m.
Meanwhile, upgrades-per-month under the government’s Sustainable Warmth Scheme were just 15% of the initiative it replaced.
Although the North East leads the UK on homes upgraded through the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund, Ashden says that less than 2,000 homes have been upgraded through this scheme; a fraction of the region’s fuel poor homes.
Ashden is urging politicians in the region to call for greater investment and support from national government, and to do what they can to replicate trailblazing schemes and projects across the region, as highlighted the charity’s new new report.
Cara Jenkinson, cities manager at Ashden, said: “As we head into the winter with energy prices staying high, it is shocking that home insulation rates have dropped off a cliff in the North East. We look to the government and opposition parties to deliver ambitious change, sparking a triple win for energy bills, carbon emissions and local jobs.”
The charity’s message has been backed by organisations including Citizens Advice Northumberland, Sunderland training provider RE:geon, Groundwork North East and Cumbria, and national retrofit experts MCS Charitable Foundation.
Lisa Locke, head of business development at charity Groundwork North East and Cumbria, which provides impartial energy advice to residents in the North East, said: “Our Green Doctor work has highlighted growing fuel poverty in the North East region and we need to collaboratively ramp up home insulation now, which can cut bills and create good local jobs.”
With national and mayoral elections coming in 2024, Ashden is calling on the region’s councillors and prospective parliamentary candidates to prioritise the issue in their parties’ plans and manifestos.
According to Ashden, 169,000 households in North-East England, or 13.1% are officially fuel poor. Sorting by type of occupancy, private rented homes have the worst energy efficiency in the region – 28% are rated ‘non-decent’ under the government’s energy performance certificate (EPC) scheme.
Image credit: Lea Rae/Shutterstock
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