Improved energy efficiency in homes reduces greenhouse gas emissions, energy consumption and cold-related illnesses. The Local Energy Mapping for Urban Retrofit (LEMUR) project has produced a digital tool and business model report to support the successful planning and implementation of domestic energy efficiency retrofit schemes.
Energy efficiency in the housing sector plays a key role in the UK’s carbon emissions reduction strategy. Making homes more energy efficient does not only help fight climate change, it also reduces fuel poverty and drives down healthcare costs. But a range of barriers including a lack of useful data and financing options has been holding back retrofitting schemes that introduce new technologies to older buildings in towns and cities across the country. To counter this, the Local Energy Mapping for Urban Retrofit (LEMUR) project created a digital tool and a delivery model study that help cities make a clear business case for energy efficiency projects.
The new software application uses economic, social and environmental data to assess a property’s suitability for various retrofit measures and displays the building-level results on a colour-coded map. City planners can then use the tool to easily spot houses and developments that suffer from high levels of heat loss. Additional data layers include information such as what types of interventions – such as insulation or double glazing – could work best for a building. The project was a collaboration between environmental consultancy Bioregional, Oxford Brookes University, Cherwell District council and Future Cities Catapult, the UK Government supported non-profit that solves urban challenges through innovation. The project is funded by Innovate UK.
Once housing that would benefit from a retrofit has been identified, a lack of available funding often prevents the work actually being executed. To help cities get started, Future Cities Catapult has released a new study that highlights a range of creative approaches to funding retrofits schemes. “One great example that we came across is Bristol City Council, which has created the Bristol Energy Company to sell gas and electricity across the UK. By creating a commercial business, they created a new revenue stream for themselves, which in the future could be used to finance retrofit schemes,” says Hannah Griffiths, a market analyst at Future Cities Catapult.
Investing in retrofitting schemes makes perfect sense financially, Griffiths explains: “By making homes more energy efficient, residents spend less money on energy bills, are better able to adequately heat their homes – and are therefore are less likely to suffer from cold related illnesses. As a result, they can be more active in the local economy.” A 2010 Building Research Establishment (BRE) report showed the NHS was spending well over a billion pounds per year on treating preventable cold-related illnesses. BRE concluded that a £10 billion investment in improving England’s 3.5 million poorest homes would save the NHS £1.4 billion in first year treatment costs, and would have a payback period of just over seven years.
In early 2016, the digital LEMUR tool was tested as part of a pilot project conducted in Highfield, Bicester (Oxfordshire). Research was carried out with over 50 householders about their energy use and efficiency of their houses, and possible indicators of fuel poverty. “We mapped the data to identify key clusters of houses with the potential for retrofit,” says Matt Wood, energy innovation manager at Bioregional.
One result of the pilot was the Affordable Warmth Network’s local boiler scheme offering a free boiler to four households that had been identified as eligible.
The LEMUR tool is available for community groups at a very low cost, those interested in using the application can contact Bioregional. More bespoke services are available to local authorities, housing associations, researchers and retrofit providers. Future Cities Catapult report with green financing ideas can be downloaded for free.