A special task-force of experts is to be established by the Greater Brighton City Region to help turn existing houses into zero carbon emitters.
Energy used to power and heat existing homes in Britain contribute 20 per cent to the nation’s carbon emissions so urgent action is needed if the region is to meet its 2030 net zero target.
Now Greater Brighton leaders have agreed to establish a task force that will initially look at retrofitting the 28,000 council houses in the region. This will involve examining whether homes could be made more energy efficient through better insulation, ‘greener’ power sources and replacing gas heating systems.
A report to the Greater Brighton Economic Board, the body which governs the Region, says not only is the project vital to tackle carbon emissions but it could help lift thousands of residents out of fuel poverty and create new jobs.
The task force is to be led by Lewes Borough Council and the University of Brighton but could include other members of the region, social housing suppliers, researchers and energy suppliers. Collaboration across Greater Brighton is vital to deliver the project on the scale needed.
Existing housing maintenance budgets totalling £1bn could be partially switched towards retrofitting but individual council members are being asked to identify extra funding and other external grants would be sought. It is estimated that each house could cost up to £60,000 to retrofit.
Switching from gas boilers, a significant contributor to carbon emissions which the government has banned in new buildings from 2025, would be a major part of this project. The report says 85 per cent of council homes in Brighton and 93 per cent in Crawley are heated by gas.
In addition it is estimated that almost 60,000 households in Greater Brighton exist in fuel poverty, paying their energy bills leaving them below the poverty line. Making houses more energy efficient would lift many out of that trap.
The report also says re-training for skills to retrofit houses could create up to 3,678 direct jobs in Greater Brighton, boosting the economy by around £183.9 million per year.
“If we succeed, we will kick start the green revolution, create a new local economy, accelerate the transformation to zero carbon and create better communities,” said Ian Fitzpatrick, Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Planning & Regeneration, Lewes & Eastbourne Councils.
The task force will bring preliminary findings back to the Board in April next year with a roadmap for the work to be prepared by October next year.
The initiative is part of a wider move to establish Greater Brighton as leaders in the UK’s green industrial revolution and transition to net zero and deliver against its 10 Pledges for the Environment, which were agreed last year.