North East sees fall in government-backed home warmth upgrades

North East
RE:geon trainees collecting their certificates onsite

As winter approaches, new data shows a drop in government-funded projects to upgrade cold and draughty homes in North East England.

In 2022/23, projects in the region drawing on the government’s ECO scheme were just 18% of the total reached in 2021/22. This means that households in the North East could be missing out on lifetime energy savings of over £50m, a statement has said.

The ECO scheme supports work to insulate draughty homes and install modern heating systems.

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, less than 2,000 homes have been upgraded through this scheme, a fraction of the region’s fuel poor homes.

Climate charity Ashden has warned that stalling progress will keep families trapped in fuel poverty – and waste the chance to create jobs in the region’s most deprived communities.

Ashden wants politicians in the North East to prioritise the issue. It urges them 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, highlighted in a new report.

Its message is backed by organisations including Citizens Advice Northumberland, Sunderland training provider RE:geon, Groundwork North East and Cumbria, and national retrofit experts MCS Charitable Foundation.

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.”

Lisa Locke, head of business development at charity Groundwork North East and Cumbria, added: “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.”

A new Ashden report features case studies of success from the region. These include a project installing heat pumps and smart thermostats in tower blocks in West Denton, Newcastle, and a package of measures that brought new insulation, solar panels and more to 215 homes in Sunderland.

The report also spotlights RE:geon, a Sunderland training provider working with employers to give local young people the skills for a career in retrofit.

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