With many councils having declared Climate Emergencies and put in place net zero targets far earlier than 2050, attention is rightly shifting onto how these ambitions can be achieved in practice. As each local authority examines its area’s emissions footprint, time and again the energy efficiency of existing homes emerges as a significant area in need of attention.  

As part of its Accelerator Cities ProgrammeUKGBC has released an interactive map designed to illustrate the current landscape of leading local authority retrofit policies and initiatives across the UK. Although the map remains open to submissions, it is already possible to see some notable trends emerging.   

As the Government looks to deliver a green recovery that ‘levelsup’ the whole countryit is interesting to see just how many local and combined authorities have put tackling domestic energy efficiency as a key element of their prospective recovery plans; illustrating this significant opportunity for clean local growth.   

Local Leadership  

For local authorities who have been historically more active on climate policy, the need to act on domestic energy efficiency has been evident for some time. With an effective hiatus in new UK-wide energy efficiency policy following the collapse of the Green Deal, many local authorities chose to act of their own accord to ensure vital progress was sustained 

This is also true across the devolved nationswhere the Governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have been active in creating their own nation-wide energy efficiency policies and incentives, resulting in less of the onus falling onto individual local authoritiesYet even here, there are instances of individual councils within the devolved nations that are going above and beyond their respective national requirements, including through setting earlier net zero targets and exploring possible initiatives and policy levers to accelerate their progress.  

Alongside the significant action of many local councils  acting together, alone or in partnership  we are seeing that combined authorities in England have been especially activeMany have now set earlier net zero targets, and, notably, put home retrofit as a key pillar of their respective green recovery plans. 

Given the Government’s ongoing commitment to the ‘levelling-up’ agenda through new funding and the forthcoming Devolution White Paper, it is clear that combined authorities will remain focus for retrofit policy innovation, particularly if they are awarded further funding or discretionary powers to drive the kind of recovery that suits them. 

The future of retrofit  

As can be found through navigating the map’s case studies, the type of action being taken across the UK varies substantially; from strategies, roadmaps, and surveys of existing domestic stock; to pilot projects, advice services and community-based partnerships. With more central government funding pots coming online in the last two years, there has been an upsurge in the number of pilot initiatives focused on developing sustainable financial and business models. This is of course key for those local authorities looking for ways to sustainably fund retrofit beyond the Green Homes Grant or EU funding sources 

In the last few months, energy efficiency has once again been in the national spotlight through the Green Homes Grant and the Prime Minister’s 10-point plan, and with more local authorities looking to retrofit their existing buildings, momentum is clearly building. With energy efficiency increasingly a point of convergence for both levelling-up and green recovery agendas, UKGBC will keep updating the map as new local retrofit policies and initiatives are announced – if you know of a leading piece of work that’s not already featured, let us know here[LINK].  

Finally, for those local authorities not currently highlighted on the map, or looking for ideas, it is important to mention that the map sits alongside UKGBC’s recently released Policy Playbook – A resource designed to support local and combined authorities in developing their own retrofit policies and initiatives through providing useful detail on key initiatives, the steps local authorities can take, and practical guidance. Please do check it out! 

The retrofit Policy map is available here 

To submit a case study for the map, please complete the submission form here and/ or email philip.box@ukgbc.org 

The UKGBC retrofit playbook is available here