Government urged to promote ‘localised’ retrofitting skills drive

Fresh calls have emerged for the UK Government to help deliver a retrofit revolution that equips the workforce and local authorities with the means to combat rising energy costs and assist the net-zero target.

Government urged to promote ‘localised’ retrofitting skills drive

Environmental charity Ashden has unveiled a new policy briefing called “Practical steps for a locally driven retrofit skills revolution” which showcases how local authorities can be supported by the Government.

Ashden claims that the UK should promote a “localised approach” to retrofitting the UK’s housing stock with low-carbon and energy-efficient solutions.

The briefing calls on the Government to introduce a long-term national retrofit strategy that provides clarity to the market while also offering localised retrofitting for the workforce.

Ashden also claims that construction apprenticeships should also be changed to account for retrofit skills training, with thousands of the construction workforce needing to be trained in retrofitting techniques, such as installing high-quality wall, floor and roof insulation and smart renewable energy systems. Indeed, current forecasts suggest that the nation will fall short of the required 400,000 retrofit professionals needed to transform the UK’s existing housing stock.

Achieving these recommendations would help the Government achieve the target of retrofitting over 19 million homes by 2035, Ashden states.

Ashden’s cities manager Cara Jenkinson said: “If the country wants to move to be zero carbon in the next few years, it’s essential we learn from what’s already working in terms of retrofit success stories and that local authorities, businesses and colleges work together on a rapid skills training programme.”

The paper states that a local approach would allow for short-term training of handyperson teams to help make council homes warmer by using local retrofit programmes to access resources.

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The UK’s retrofitting industry needs to grow by ten times its current size if the UK is to decarbonise its housing stock at a pace suitable for the wider net-zero emissions target, according to separate research.

The paper, published by Bankers for Net Zero and the Green Finance Institute, claims that an estimated 29 million homes need to be retrofitted with low-carbon solutions if the UK is to meet net-zero emissions by 2050.

Heating and powering homes make up 23% of the UK’s carbon footprint. Tackling these sources of emissions will also assist with job growth across the UK, notably for small and medium-sized organisations (SMEs), the paper adds.

Indeed, the retrofit industry consists mainly of SMEs and this sector will need to grow by at least a factor of 10 to deliver the required levels of retrofits. The paper calls for a “clear plan” for the industry to be introduced by Government.

However, the Government has largely ignored retrofitting as part of measures to respond to the energy crisis, instead focusing on cost reliefs and ramping up low-carbon technologies like renewables and hydrogen.

On hydrogen, new research suggests that the technology will not be the answer to domestic heating on the road to net-zero.

That is according to a new study, published on Tuesday in the peer-review scientific journal Joule. Researchers reviewed more than 30 hydrogen-related studies and found that it was unlikely to be suitable for replacing fossil fuel gas or to blend with natural gas in order to heat UK homes.

Jan Rosenow, Europe director at the Regulatory Assistance Project, an energy thinktank, and co-author of the study, was quoted in the Guardian as saying that there were too many technical difficulties facing hydrogen.

Separate research this week from Cornwall Insight also found that hydrogen heating would be twice as expensive as using gas alone.

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