Comment from Mark Hoyland, Orbit Group Chief Executive
A report from the Environmental Audit Committee this week highlighted that the cost of decarbonising the UK’s existing housing stock has been significantly underestimated and will result in a considerable funding gap for homeowners.
This is an issue of which we, as social landlords, are only too aware. There are 19 million homes across the country which would currently fail to reach EPC C ratings - the minimum standard which all homes must meet by 2035 for us to hit our target of becoming carbon neutral by 2050 – and the estimated funding gap for the social housing sector alone is over £104 billion. This is a substantial sum and one which could increase if we don’t have a clear, united direction of travel across the industry.
Funding aside, there are other challenges which need understanding too. We don’t currently have a focused sustainable technology solution; we don’t know how customers and homeowners will react or what behavioural change needs to be adopted; and we haven’t currently got the supply chain or skills to tackle the problem at scale. There is much we don’t know, and much we need to learn.
Which is why I am delighted that we, in conjunction with Stratford District Council, have been awarded £1.45 million by the Government’s Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund (SHDF) Demonstrator to install sustainable technologies in a number of our homes in Stratford. The SHDF Demonstrator is a UK-wide scheme which will upgrade around 2,000 social homes currently EPC rating D or below, using a whole house retrofit approach, with energy efficiency products such as floor and wall insulation and low carbon heating.
Alongside the SHDF fund, we are investing a further £2.2 million into the project to help us better understand the scale of the challenge ahead and, importantly, explore the impact of selected sustainable technologies in a retrofit application.
Orbit have been investing heavily in the energy performance of our customers’ homes for some time now. We had already given ourselves the target of achieving EPC C as a minimum for our stock by 2030 and I’m pleased to be able to say that we are now more than 80% of the way there. This project will allow us to take this to the next level, generating knowledge and insight, which we can work into our ongoing home improvement programmes and share with the social and new build sectors.
To achieve our carbon reduction commitments will require real innovation and collaboration – with Government, the public and private sector, supply partners, and the public. We have a long way to go and much to learn, but we are proud to be working with Stratford District Council to be part of the solution.