William Eichler 03 November 2020

London boroughs call for £115m to retrofit energy inefficient buildings

Local authorities in London are calling on the Government to ‘secure London’s environmental and economic future’ by increasing funding for councils to retrofit energy inefficient buildings.

Councils in the capital have identified 375 shovel-ready projects presenting a £1.35bn pipeline of ‘green recovery’ activity, including the retrofitting of 18 large-scale public buildings, 29 schools, and thousands of homes across the capital.

These councils are already funding more than £950m of the costs but need an additional £115m in 2020/21 to make progress on the full list of retrofitting projects.

Buildings are among the biggest contributors to carbon emissions, with homes and workplaces estimated to account for 78% of CO2 emissions in London. Investment in energy efficiency and low-carbon heating is essential if the UK is to meet its target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. It will also help reduce energy bills and tackle fuel poverty.

Ahead of the upcoming spending review, the cross-party umbrella group London Councils is urging the Government to give London boroughs the extra £115m needed to complete the retrofitting projects, which according to Philip Glanville, the mayor of Hackney and chair of London Councils’ Transport and Environment Committee, is ‘essential for securing our environmental and economic future.’

‘The investment case is a no-brainer,’ insisted Mayor Glanville.

‘Funding retrofitting projects brings immediate benefits to Londoners such as new jobs and lower fuel bills while also addressing the climate emergency and helping us reduce carbon emissions.

‘London boroughs are fully committed to the green recovery agenda and are putting significant resources into retrofitting. But in the face of both the economic and the climate crisis, ministers should seize the day and use the upcoming spending review to boost funding for this crucial work.’

London Councils offered Waltham Forest as an example of a borough investing in a range of energy efficiency measures to reduce its carbon emissions. By spending more than £2.4m on efficiency improvements over the past decade, the borough has reduced its carbon emissions by 2,721 tonnes of CO2 a year – equivalent to taking over 530 cars off the streets of Waltham Forest each year.

Cllr Clyde Loakes, deputy leader and lead member for environment at Waltham Forest Council, commented: ‘It is critical at this time that the Government invest additional resources in local green infrastructure activity, enabling councils to make significant financial and energy savings by retrofitting their own buildings and housing stock, and providing support to residents that want to follow suit.

‘Being able to invest in and deliver a range of energy efficiency projects improves the quality of buildings and street lighting, while simultaneously tackling the decarbonisation challenge and providing huge CO2 savings.

‘Not only are local authorities faced with severe financial shortfalls in the face of COVID-19, but we’re still trying to tackle the climate emergency and become more sustainable. Providing long-term support to green infrastructure projects will go a long way to address this, from energy savings, cost efficiencies to more jobs in the economic recovery of the country.’

Although several boroughs successfully applied for funds under the Government’s Green Homes Grants Local Authority Delivery Scheme, London Councils points to serious flaws undermining the scheme’s effectiveness.

Local authorities were given just one month to make submissions to phase 1a of the scheme and projects will need to be completed by March 2021 to be eligible. This means that many councils have been unable to maximise their submissions and have struggled to include projects.

Photo: New solar panels at West Reservoir Centre, launched by Hackney Light and Power, Hackney Council's publicly-owned renewable energy services company.

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