Local authorities are often faced with huge challenges when it comes to improving the energy efficiency of their housing stock. Many buildings are old and poorly insulated with ageing heating systems. Leeds is no exception. The second largest local authority in the country, much of its housing stock, public and private, was built before 1920.
The Council’s response was the responsibility of a dedicated Fuelsavers team. Drawing on expertise from across the council, the team’s remit was to tackle fuel poverty and energy efficiency with an especial focus on housing. Funded by grants and the council’s own resources, the team set targets for all organisations managing council stock as well best practise guides for private-sector landlords. The team carried out surveys, arranged grants and ran an advice line. Between 2003 and 2009 over 46,000 installations of cavity wall or loft insulation were carried out in council homes and 23,000 efficient gas boilers installed.
Carbon saving figures are impressive. Between 2003 and 2008 work on council housing saved an estimated 88,000 tonnes of CO2. Fuelsavers energy efficiency advice contributed to cumulative savings of 210,000 tonnes of CO2 in the private sector during the same period.
Energy-efficiency is a long game and as Leeds’s experience demonstrates requires time, money and cross-organisational commitment. Developing a more energy-efficient society will affect every aspect of our lives and so its solution must permeate everything we do.