Retrofit is a key part of the decarbonisation agenda, and there has been a push by Devon County Council to increase uptake for the ‘able to pay’ market as well as to best use and target grant funding for households who are ‘unable to pay’ for such home upgrades.
Retrofit is a key part of the decarbonisation agenda, and there has been a push by Devon County Council to increase uptake for the ‘able to pay’ market as well as to best use and target grant funding for households who are ‘unable to pay’ for such home upgrades. There are barriers to uptake including disruption and the increasing cost of the works. There are also acute supply chain challenges in the region with poor availability of credible suppliers for retrofit work.
The council has developed their Sustainable Warmth Fund for eligible households utilising funding including the LAD and HUG schemes. Devon has also developed a website and marketing campaign, including the Cosy Devon website, which has a long legacy and good reputation for giving advice and sharing information on retrofit work and available grants. The website will include an accessible retrofit guide being developed for Devon’s householders, in addition to a domestic retrofit suitability tool; Plan Builder and flashcard designed to give Householders an instant idea of how much carbon and money they can save by retrofitting their property.
Devon County Council has also partnered with community energy groups in the delivery of retrofit advice and support and this is modelled on the Carbon Co-op approach that has been effectively implemented in Greater Manchester. Though it is early days, these groups are seen as critical to developing support, knowledge and trust in retrofit work and in accessing those in fuel poverty. The community energy groups have in places developed to operate as suppliers themselves by building knowledge and training up retrofit assessors with Community Retrofit Accredited Training. Devon CC has also partnered with the Retrofit Academy to support this process of local capacity building.
The latest registration process for retrofit support has over 300 residents signalling interest. The council is targeting 500 retrofits by the end of March and is anticipating a real push in the winter to meet this. However, there has been an insufficient supply chain to meet local demand. Residents have had reported waits of several months for works such as for solar panels and for initial retrofit assessments.
There are significant challenges with the supply chain and its capacity. Firms who offer retrofit work are often from outside the area and lack local knowledge, whilst there have also been areas of low quality and rushed work which damages resident trust in retrofit and related work. There are not enough retrofit advisors, assessors, coordinators, designers, or evaluators as required under PAS-2035. These roles require high technical knowledge and the incentives for those who have the right skills to switch sectors are insufficient.
Building local capacity is important and community energy groups are one approach here. The Devon Community Energy Network and its community energy groups have had some excellent local success. This includes skills training, preparatory work for larger strategic fund applications, such as the Rural Community Energy Fund, and setting up Community Energy Companies.