Community group inspires more energy efficiency in Manchester homes

Carbon Co op

A Manchester community energy group has pioneered a way of supporting homeowners to invest in making their homes warmer and more comfortable – while reducing their energy use by around half, in line with Greater Manchester’s climate goals.


‘Powering Down Together’, the report of Carbon Co-op’s Community Green Deal is published this week to coincide with Community Energy Fortnight. It reports on the retrofit of 12 owner-occupied solid-walled homes typical of Manchester’s housing stock. By upgrading the fabric of homes and adding PV panels, cuts of 40-60% or more were made in both energy consumption and emissions, at a level of capital spending that homeowners were willing and able to


Greater Manchester’s new mayor Andy Burnham has said he aims to cut the city region’s emissions by 48% by 2020 – which will require thousands of home retrofits. By combining individual advice and shared action, the “Community Green Deal” has shown a way for these goals to be achieved, says the project team.
As well as dramatically reduced energy bills, homeowners who participated in the project say:

  • • Their homes are warmer, including first thing in the morning.
  • • They feel less damp and the air feels fresher.
  • • Homes are less draughty.
  • • Homes are cooler in summer when it’s hot.



Customer research showed that the project’s success resulted from the combination of a community base with expert technical advice and supervision, along with a modest financial incentive (in this case a zero-interest loan).


By bringing a group of householders and their homes together under one umbrella, important elements such as site crew training and the detailing of insulation installation could be shared, while specifications were individualised to each home in line with the needs of the building and the wishes of the owners.


This combination gave customers the confidence to invest, and enabled them to transform the performance of their homes.


Community Green Deal co-ordinator Jonathan Atkinson argues that national retrofit assistance needs to be re-thought to put householders, not abstract targets, at the centre of the process: “In the wake of a number of failed retrofit programmes such as the Green Deal, the need for property- and occupant-specific designs, for training of site teams, and for hands-on contract oversight is coming to the fore.


“The need for increased design input, training and supervision in retrofit was also highlighted in the Bonfield, Review (link below) – the Community Green Deal anticipated a number of the Review’s recommendations on quality assurance and customer care, Jonathan Atkinson adds.


“The Bonfield Review said there have been too many instances of poor quality installations by companies ‘who do not have the skills, quality levels or core values required to operate responsibly in this market’, and that ‘advice has been inconsistent and fails adequately to take account of property-specific details’.


“Given the right support, many owner occupiers are willing to largely self-fund this level of retrofit. Householders invested enough in their homes to make a dramatic difference – a long way beyond just the one or two measures installed under a typical Green Deal or ECO intervention.


“Effective ‘deep’ retrofit is something the market has struggled to deliver. By contrast we were able to show that a collective approach combined with individualised advice and supervision led to our programme being oversubscribed.


Atkinson believes that more effective support for retrofit, for both able-to-pay and more vulnerable occupants, is urgently needed. “The success of the Community Green Deal shows that the obstacles are political and administrative, not technical, nor necessarily financial.


“Expansion of a programme like this could create hundreds of jobs and would enable the city to reach its carbon goals while residents enjoy the luxury of comfortable, cheap-to-run homes.”


The full report can be found here


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